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The Canon: Content, Chronology, and Criticism

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Question #1:

Sir,

So my question is, Peter was one of the first disciples; why is his books in the Bible put later in instead of first ? Are the books placed according to who found them or when they were written?

Thank you for your time,

Response #1:

Good to make your acquaintance. It's an interesting question. The order of the books of the New Testament (about which you are asking) is not "canonical" per se. That is to say, there is nothing absolute about the order as these divinely inspired books were sometimes organized in a different way in antiquity. For example, in the oldest, complete Greek manuscript of the Bible, codex Sinaiticus (ca. 300 A.D.), the book of Acts is placed before James, at the end of Paul's letters, and Hebrews is placed in-between the letters to the Thessalonians and the letters to Timothy (good evidence that it was taken to be an epistle of Paul).

That said, the order we now have became standardized fairly early on. One of the reasons why this process required some conscience decision-making is because the "book" form with which we are so comfortable today was not even invented until probably several hundred years after the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, was written. In the ancient world, a "book" is a scroll of papyrus, and would be rolled up and stored individually (e.g., the gospel of John, say, on its own roll). There is a limit to how many papyrus leafs can be pasted together in a roll, and that is why Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are each 24 "books" long – even though they can comfortably fit into one "volume" in what today is a "regular book". Folding the papyrus leaves (later vellum) into quires and then binding the quires into a true "book" or codex was perhaps invented by Christians for just this purpose, namely, to have all of the important "books" contained in one codex/volume: the Bible.

As to order, it makes sense to put the gospels first, and the book of Revelation, the last book written and clearly the one meant to be the final work, last. Then, it also makes sense to put Paul's letters together, also Peter's and John's. As to why Peter's epistles came after Paul's when these early Christians did their organizing, that probably was because it was understood that Peter wrote after Paul, even though he was earlier to the faith than Paul (cf. 2Pet.3:15). All that said, the order of the books as we now have it is not perfectly reflective of the order or their writing. For more about that subject, please see the following links:

Chronological order of the books of the Bible I

Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible II

The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Are you saying that Psalms (the complete Book) was the 8th book written in the Holy Bible? This differs so drastically with any other chronological order of the bible that I have ever seen listed. Perhaps I am not interpreting your listing correctly. I just want the most accurate chronological order so I can begin reading in a chronological order I know is acceptably correct.

In and for Christ, thank you.

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance.

On your question, please read the whole posting (or postings: "Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible" and "Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible II") for additional comments and information.

Yes, that is essentially correct, although as I point out (and as most good study Bibles will point out), the book of Psalms was written over a rather long period of time. King David wrote many of the Psalms, but others were written during King Solomon's time or possibly later. Since David reigned for forty years (and no doubt wrote some Psalms before becoming king) adding Solomon's reign and perhaps some time beyond gives us a 60 - 100 year window for when we would wish to place the book on a time-scale. Other books were written during Solomon's reign (e.g., Ruth, Job, Ecclesiastes), some of which may also have been begun earlier, Samuel, for example (which is only one book in the Hebrew tradition but split up into two in the Latin/English tradition). Only the Pentateuch and Joshua/Judges were definitely written before the Psalms, so placing Psalms next in order, since some of the book was almost certainly written before any of the others were started, seems to me the correct "call". Needless to say, this is a conservative placement which takes the internal evidence of the Bible at face value (many "liberal" interpretations play around with the dates considerably, the most famous of which, JEPD, of course splits even the Pentateuch up into various "strains" and denies Mosaic authorship). The order given in the list to which you refer allows for the overlap cited above, and we see this sort of overlap happening with many of the later prophets as well (many of whom we can only place generally and without great specificity since some of them, Isaiah for example, wrote over a long period of time). What all this means is that the placement of the groupings in my list are somewhat more certain than that of the books within the groupings, which, in some cases, may have been written simultaneously.

Please do feel free to write back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

What was the criterion when arranging the letters in the New Testament? Authorship, date, content?

Response #3:

It's hard to say since the arrangement took place very soon after the fact and in a manner not recorded. What we do know is how the complete, ancient manuscripts of the New Testament are arranged, and they are not uniform. Placing the gospels first is very understandable, after all, and one would think that placing Acts next was likewise a natural thing to do. However, in Sinaiticus (Aleph), the earliest complete ms., Romans, along with entire Pauline corpus, follows the gospel of John, and Acts is placed after Philemon, that is, at the end of the Pauline epistles. My view of that is that Acts, written by Luke, was thus associated with Paul, being mostly about Paul (in terms of volume) and written by his attendant. Incidentally, Hebrews is also placed within the Pauline corpus in Sinaiticus (after the Thessalonian epistles and before the pastorals). Otherwise, the New Testament order with which we are familiar is the one found in Aleph, so that it is clear that later editions merely tinkered with what they had received. Revelation is the last canonical book in Aleph (it has some non-canonical apostolic works after that as a sort of appendix); and it makes sense that Revelation, the last book written, would come last, and also that the general epistles, mostly late, would also come after the Pauline corpus.

Question #4:

The word and the bible are NOT the same. Today we use the terms "The Word" and "The Bible" as if they are the same thing. The scriptures are true, but God, make them real and alive to you, giving revelation of truth. Although the bible is true, it has no life apart from God... We see this all throughout the OT and NT... In the OT, it was "the word of the Lord came unto so Jeremiah". In the NT, it was "Peter rise and eat". Today the so-called church has defined Christianity by "The Book". Why. Because they can control that, via their so-called doctrines, preaching, and one man shows. They have refused for the longest time to let "THE BODY" minister to one another as the Spirit leads, "Speak Lord, here am I"...He may speak by His Spirit, by The Scriptures. History and the scriptures themselves prove this to be true. During the dark ages, there was no printing press, and people couldn't read or write. Yet we know there were people who KNEW Christ, there was Madam Guyon, and Jean Nicholas Grou, just to name two. Then of course the disciples couldn't read, but they had the living word, in flesh which was Christ. They lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God, as should we...Jesus speaks of hearing much more than reading. He also condemns the Pharisees for looking to the scriptures, BUT not being willing to come to Him, the word of life. We must come to a common denominator, for people to receive Christ, to experience Christ. And it's NOT The Bible: The bible cannot be the one common denominator that leads us into all truth. Because many generations passed with people NOT having access to the scriptures, and many through out time could not read, so the inspiration has to be something else, something everyone could have access to in each age. I believe the scriptures, are inspired, but God never meant for us to live by them, nor the Jewish people the Torah. But instead by the Spirit / the word / His breath...His words of promise, leading us into all truth? We have two types of church. Those led by the Spirit, and those seeing and leaning only on "The book". We must not elevate the bible above God, and I'm afraid that is what many churches (people) have done. The "Word" and "The bible" are not one and the same. The common denominator throughout time Has been God reaching out to man, possibly by a sunset, or a person who was "LED" of the spirit to witnesses to you, or God speaks to you, but God has not, at all times used the bible. Of course there are times that the Spirit moves someone, through the use of Scripture, but that is not my point. What do we say of the first 3000 years of man, until Moses wrote the Torah, where was God. He was doing what he has always done, personally interacting with man. The faith we have is more than intellectual knowledge, it IS LIFE...Two trees were in the garden; today we face that same thing. "Knowledge" OR "Life".

Response #4:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your email. It is true that many people misuse scripture. But the misuse of it by some does not diminish scripture. It is true that many false and/or questionable "doctrines" are embraced by many groups. But the construction, teaching and promoting of false interpretation does not diminish the scriptures themselves. It is also true that we Christians all have our spiritual experiences. And it is wonderful that we do. But here is what Peter said:

For I did not follow concocted tales in making known to you the power and the coming return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but was an eyewitness to His majesty. For when He had received honor and glory from God the Father, these words sounded forth to Him from God's majestic glory: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased." And these words I myself heard as they were delivered from heaven, for I was with Him on the holy mountain (cf. Matt.17:1-8). Yet I consider the prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible) even more reliable (i.e. than what I saw with my own eyes). You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:16-21

If one of the greatest apostles considered scripture more to be believed and relied upon than his personal viewing through a vision given to Him with Christ of the second advent, well, that really speaks volumes about where we should place our own spiritual experiences: we are to treasure them, but we are not to place them above scripture – still less replace scripture with them.

In fact, there is no contradiction. The Holy Spirit only works through the actual truth we have in our hearts – and the only source of that truth today (apart from the general/natural revelation of the creation) is in fact the Bible.

The Pharisees knew the Bible; they did not know the truth. That is, as you point out, an important distinction. In order for us to be benefitted by God's truth, we first have to get the truth (i.e., from a correct teaching of the Bible), but we then also have to believe it – that is the only way that God's truth becomes usable to the Spirit in us and to us in the Spirit. There is much more about all this at Ichthys. I would recommend starting with the following links:

Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.

Faith Epistemology (in BB 4B: Soteriology)

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord, He who is the very Word of Truth incarnate.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:

My last couple of questions I feel are similarly odd (and perhaps a bit unimportant). Firstly, does God speak in what we would call a language, and will we once we get to heaven? Secondly, and related: when it is said that the word has existed forever independently of and as God (cf. John 1:1), we are almost certainly referring to Jesus. But does (and did) the Bible exist as something in heaven before God revealed his word to humanity? I recall reading this somewhere and finding it rather ridiculous, but want to make sure I am not dismissing some principle offhandedly because I find it unlikely.

Response #5:

In the book of Revelation there is a good deal of communication going on, and it is clear that we will be praising the Lord forever. Language is thus something essential to all those with the image of God, men and angels both. So I would say that it is not so much if but which language we will be employing in eternity. We will have to wait on the answer to that question. As to the Bible, God certainly had it planned in every detail before He initiated creation – as indeed He has planned everything. But the Bible does have a special existence, even before it was completed:

"But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince."
Daniel 10:21 ESV

Question #6:

Forgive me if my lack of Hebrew interferes here, but is it possible that the "book of truth" refers to something totally different from the Bible? If God has foreknown all of history, might the book of truth be literally referring to just that- a document that has recorded in it everything that ever was and forever will be true? I suppose that would make it ipso facto contain the Bible (since the Bible is truth), but I am not quite seeing from where the certainty that the "book of truth" is the Bible is coming.

Ever Yours in Christ,

Response #6:

You're most welcome. And thanks much for all your good words and insightful comments.

As to your last comment, it's a fair one to make. The Hebrew kethab 'emeth means, literally, "[the] writing of truth". But what might this be besides the Bible? We know that there are many "books" which will be opened at the last judgment to demonstrate to unbelievers that God's condemnation of them is just (Rev.20:12); we know that our lives generally are "written in God's book" (Ps.40:7; 139:16), and that there is in particular a "book of life" which contains the names of the elect (while the rest are blotted out; see the link). So everything is "written" in God's plan. This particular quote, Daniel 10:21, therefore, could be referring to one of these more general books, however, the words "I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth" (NKJV) are, in my view, clearing referencing the prophecy that Daniel is about to receive in chapters 11-12. And these words are recorded for us in the Bible after the fact. Since we may be sure that this angel was not "ad-libbing", but was getting his information from somewhere, and since the somewhere in this case produces words that are represented verbatim in the Bible we actually have, I will stick with my presumption. In any case, since we do have a Bible, and since it was clearly in the mind of God before the world began, and since it was given through inspiration to those blessed to receive it through verbal plenary inspiration, it seems to me that the alternative positions cannot be too far apart – assuming that these principles of truth are accepted as true.

Yours in the One who is the Word of Truth incarnate, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Mr. Luginbill;

Today, I happened upon your website and found that I was unable to stop reading. Your explanations on biblical history are very insightful. I am an atheist with a somewhat obsessive interest in religion. I collect Bibles, as well as other religious books. I'm currently wondering if the Book of Enoch qualifies as Apocrypha, as my New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha lacks many of the extra-canonical books. The Gospel of Barnabas (not to be mistaken with the General Epistle of Barnabas) is also missing from this collection. I have a "Forgotten Books of the Bible" app on my phone also. I realize I have barely formed any sort of question, but would really appreciate your insight into how extra/non-canonical scriptures are classified, and would generally enjoy any more information you can offer.

Sincerely yours,

Response #7:

Dear Friend,

In biblical scholarship, the Apocrypha is a word with a specific, technical meaning. It refers to the extra-canonical books which were associated with many Greek mss. of the Bible (in the LXX or Septuagint version), and hence ended up in the Vulgate (though Jerome only translated them under duress); they thus came to be published in some of the earlier English versions, notably the KJV:

1 Esdras

2 Esdras

Tobit

Judith

Additions to Esther

Wisdom of Solomon

Ecclesiasticus

Baruch

Letter of Jeremiah

Prayer of Azariah

Susanna

Bel and the Dragon

Prayer of Manasseh

1 Maccabees

2 Maccabees

There are many other such writings (of which Enoch is one), which, from a spiritual point of view, are no better (not being divinely inspired). This much larger and largely indefinable group of materials is known in biblical scholarship as Pseudepigrapha (to distinguish these works from the more recognizable books of the Apocrypha which, by the way, were accepted by the Roman Catholic church as "canonical" at the Council of Trent in 1545 – Protestant churches do not accept them as inspired parts of the Bible).

I am pleased to hear that you have found Ichthys interesting. May the Lord open your heart to accept the truth: eternal life comes only through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the One who, God though He is, became a human being to die for our sins that we might be saved from death through believing in Him (Jn.3:16-18).

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Acts 16:31

Please see the link: Salvation: God's Free Gift.

In the dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:

From your "The Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch, and Divine Inspiration":

"So the true sequence is 1) the historical person, Enoch; 2) Jude's quotation of him (source unknown); 3) the pseudepigraphical "book of Enoch", an entirely false work no doubt built around this quotation taken from the New Testament (to give it authority)."

Enoch predates the New Testament time by 100-300 years. The actual writing of the NT by 400+/- years "other gospels" that fall under the "pseudepigrapha" are of dubious content. You are the first scholar I've come across that thinks that most of the Apocrypha comes in A.D. and NOT in B.C.

1 Maccabees...175 BC

2 Maccabees ...125 BC

Tobit...100 BC

Sirach...200 BC

1 Esdras...400 BC

2 Esdras...400 BC

Judith..100C

{all dates approximate...}

You are absolutely correct that the R.C. church defends these documents as support for many of their more bizarre and anti-biblical reformist teachings (it was not made "canon", however, until the council of Trent in the 16th century as a reaction to the Reformation). Until the reformist movement picked up speed, there was no need to produce a "Catholic canon". The 73 books they were using WAS the long-established bible of the day and as such . . . 2 Tim 3:16a. From 4th to the 16th century there was serious no challenge to speak of, of the existent Scriptures. Would you be responding to all of these e-mails {not just mine} if no one was challenging your positions?

Response #8:

Dear Friend,

You misunderstand my position. Although it is often improperly appreciated (even sometimes by "scholars" who ought to know better), "The Apocrypha" is different from "apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works". The former is a discrete collection of materials (the ones accepted by the R.C. church as "canonical" at the 1453 Council of Trent); the latter refers to a vast body of material which virtually no one accepts as inspired. The former is just over 300 pages long (in the Oxford Annotated Apocrypha), whereas the latter cannot even be fully cataloged: Charlesworth's two volume set, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, is nearly 2,000 pages long, and only represents a fraction of the material which falls into this category. Much of it is late (although the collection known as "The Apocrypha" represents some of the earliest of these materials); as you rightly add here "all dates approximate". That is even more so the case for materials not part of the R.C. Apocrypha, because in many instances here we have to do with literature (as in the "Book of Enoch", for example) which is deliberately misrepresenting itself. As to "The Apocrypha", you don't need to take my word for it. I am convinced that no true child of God can read this stuff and be convinced that he/she is reading scripture. That is because it is clearly not inspired literature, and that is obvious to any genuine believer who takes his/her time (or, better, wastes his/her time) going through it.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello Sir, I know you are busy so I won't take up much of your time. I just wanted to know how do you feel about the Book of Jasher and the Book of Enoch? V/r

Response #9:

Hello again,

There was a genuine "Book of Jasher" (Josh.10:13; 2Sam.1:18); this book is lost to history. Enoch did utter a prophecy (which was given to Jude to quote under divine inspiration: Jude 1:14), but he never wrote a book.

However, the apocryphal "Book of Enoch" and apocryphal books of "Jasher" are much later fictions which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Word of God (one of the iterations of the latter was concocted in the 19th century).

It was a commonplace in the ancient world to invent works by famous authors of the past, but no ancient author/corpus has been attacked in this way as frequently and as scurrilously as the Bible. It really doesn't take a very high level of spiritual common sense (i.e., truth in the heart illuminated by the Spirit) to see on even a first glance that "works" of this sort are so far removed from the true Word of God as to be glaringly obvious: e.g., just as rotten milk is easy to tell from fresh milk, even if the "freshness date" on the former has been counterfeited to pass it off as the latter. Unfortunately, these sorts of false works (designed by Satan to attack the canon of scripture) have always been very plentiful (the Apocrypha and all manner of pseudepigrapha, for example). But perhaps there is a reason why the Lord has allowed them to exist:

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
1st Corinthians 11:19 NIV

As with many things, the Lord sometimes allows stumbling blocks to come to test, try and demonstrate the purity of the faith of those who refuse to engage with them.

Here are a few links on this topic:

Issues of Canonicity: Apocrypha, Enoch, and Inspiration

Issues of Canonicity II: Aramaic, Enoch, KJV, and the Pastorals

Was Judas Saved?, The Gospel of Judas, and Issues of Canonicity

The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Thank you for replying before to my email about the Interpolation of Jesus writing on the sand. It was very informative and stirred me on the right track. As I was reading the word recently, I came across a verse that mentions the book of Jasher. My questions are; why wasn't this included in the Bible itself by the early fathers. It seems like the book of Jasher (after reading most of the chapters therein) coincide with what the Bible says in the Torah. Also if it wasn't included why and should I disregard it? Final question for now, I know you have anthropology and the Christian walk on the site but anything you suggest to read on being a godly man?

Thanks for your help and look forward to hearing from you!

Response #10:

Good to hear back from you.

There was an ancient "Book of Jasher (Jashar)", and it is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Josh.10:13; 2Sam.1:18). As to what you have read, it's difficult to say inasmuch as there have been several much later pseudepigraphical works masquerading under that title. The most common one has some 90 chapters. What all these false books have in common, however, is that 1) they are all not the "book of Jasher (Jashar)" referred to in scripture and 2) they all date to the middle ages (at the earliest – one was written in the 19th cent.). The production of false works which are not canonical but which try to insinuate themselves into scripture through one device or another has been a favorite artifice of the evil one for attacking the truth since the close of the Old Testament canon. Claiming to be a work mentioned in the Bible is one typical way of doing this (cf. the so-called "Book of Enoch"; see the link). Best advice: toss this false work, sell it back, or at least don't pay any attention to it: small deviations from the truth, though they may not be immediately obvious (and precisely because they may not be so obvious) are capable of doing grave spiritual damage.

As to the Christian walk, while this has not (oddly enough) been a major subcategory of Christian systematic theology traditionally, I have included it in my plan for the "Basic Series" (which is really a systematic theology in its own right). I haven't gotten to part 6A "Peripateology" yet, and it will be some time before I do, given current rates of production, but at the link just given you will find the stub for that piece with further links to appropriate and related postings at Ichthys, of which there are many (the Peter series is also much concerned with the Christian walk; see the link). The "bottom line" on this is that spiritual growth, progress and production, through learning and believing, applying and ministering the Word of God and its truths respectively, sums up the full duty of believers (this is really the only way to "fear/respect God and carry out His commandments" in a truly effective way: Eccl.12:13). As such, everything true (and, I hope, therefore, nearly everything at Ichthys) is valuable for the carrying out of the purpose the Lord has for you in this life.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2nd Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hello Robert, thank you for the information you provide. Bob, we need to prove all things and not just take what a person’s says or writes at face value. With that said, we do not always have the resources at our finger tips, or even where to locate resource referred to. Please, please review the link http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/
index.cfm?page_name=Divine-Council. I have gone as far as I can in scripture, which seems on the surface, to support what is being said, that there is a (divine counsel which is comprised of 70 ruling angels of the nations).

However, this site refers to books I’ve not heard of (The Book Of Jasher), I actually found on the website https://openlibrary.org/ ( Targum Pseudo-Jonathan translated by J.W. Etheridge). I am just a layman, at best, a babe in Christ always panting and thirsting for the WORD of our FATHER, I work 40+ hours not including travel time I spend on the road back and forth to work, thank you for allowing me to vent for a second, but Bob, without someone like you and others who has given themselves over to the study of our FATHER’S WORD… (**shaking head and deep sigh**) we would have nowhere to turn. Please review, and let me know if this is sound information, if it is, man are we in trouble! Thank you for your guidance and leadership I really look to you-your site to help me find answers.

Yours in Christ,

Note: I’ve found Septuagint in the Open Bible, laughing, looking through some of the pages I got a headache, really! Really very thankful to our Father for blessing us with you!

Response #11:

Good to hear from you. I am keeping you and your family in prayer day by day.

As to your question, the article you reference is a very typical example of false teaching. The procedure taken is a common one, namely, start with a proposition which seems not to be contradicted by scripture, or which may even seem to be alluded to in scripture (by some inventive interpretation), and establish the "truth" of it by appealing to "sources" which are not scripture. If, for example, the quotation from the Septuagint were not included, there would be no bridge passage to connect angels to the "number of the nations" in Deuteronomy 32:8. The Septuagint is not inspired. It is a late translation of the Old Testament into Greek, done in stages beginning in ca. the 3rd century B.C. (that is, over a thousand years later than the Hebrew original). There are many problems with this "LXX" version – and in fact what we have today is one composite surviving text-type. Even within this late, surviving text, we are not at all sure of the provenance of various readings (such as this one in Deut.). The main thing I can tell you, as a Greek scholar by secular profession, is that the reading "the angels of God" is not original. My best guess is that it replaced "sons of Israel" on account of Gnostic influence during the first few centuries of this era. The Dead Sea scrolls mentioned by this article (I note that the specific reference that would allow for checking up is omitted) may possibly be in sync with the LXX reading; that is of no great consequence inasmuch as the DS scrolls are 1) very late; 2) represent an inferior, popular text-type, and 3) may even be back-translations from the LXX (as in this case), rather than the other way around. See the link: "the Qumran Scrolls".

Secondly, whenever someone appeals to any extra-biblical source, especially when it falls into the category of Apocrypha or pseudepigrapha, as in this case, we can leave off reading immediately. These false documents are designed by evil one with one purpose only: to disturb believers and to compromise their faith. There is a plethora of such materials, but perhaps the most dangerous category consists of "works" such as this one, namely, lost books mentioned in scripture which have been miraculously "found". The so-called "Book of Enoch" is one of these. That late forgery incorporates Jude's quotation – in order to seem legitimate – but everything before and after is completely made-up. That is the same thing we find in the case of this "Book of Jasher". As it turns out, a number of false works go by this name (the real one quoted in scripture no longer exists). But the one your article quotes is the typical one quoted, and it is a complete fiction concocted in the 18th century. Clearly, there is nothing godly in it.

The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan's date is much disputed, but there seems to be no reason to assume that it existed before the Qumran texts (and is probably later). I see no need to criticize the secondary sources cited so selectively in this article.

There are many half-truths in this article. It is true that there are (in the table of the nations in Genesis 10) seventy nations (depending upon how one does the count). It is true, as seen in Daniel, that the evil one has a military-style organization which includes concentration on individual nations (since this is the way the Lord divided humanity to prevent repetitions of the devil's one-world "Tower of Babel" operation; see the link). It is true that the angels assemble from time to time before the Lord (all of them, that is, as in the book of Job). And it is true that angels do have supervisory roles in the Church (elect angels, that is, as the angels of the seven Church eras). But it is not true that there is any sort of "heavenly council of spirit beings [which] has exercised rule over our world for millennia" – at least there is nothing whatsoever in the Bible to suggest this or support this. Indeed, what the Bible has to say about the conflict raging between the evil one and the forces of the Lord presents an entirely different picture, namely, one of the devil and his minions opposing believers, while God uses us to put the lie to all of Satan's falsehoods (in which process we are confirmed in our faith and win eternal rewards). This present cosmos is temporary and serves merely as the backdrop for that conflict (as the Satanic Rebellion series explains; see the link).

So there are a number of dangers with this sort of speculation. For instance, believing that this world is some "solid state" angelically controlled operation will give a person the exact wrong impression about the spiritual warfare in which we are presently involved (and therein lies a great vulnerability). But perhaps the greatest danger is that such materials have a tendency to tear believers away from the Bible and away from orthodox teaching by appealing to a natural fascination many people have with the spirit world (Gnosticism in the first centuries of the Church and all manner of occult activities today are variations on this theme). It is easy enough for persons with some limited education and facility with these materials to sound erudite as if they might be a good source of spiritual nutrition. Unfortunately, all they are really offering is poisoned broth – and furthering the interests of their father the devil in so doing.

I applaud your spiritual common sense in seeing through the deceptions here!

And thanks much for your kind and encouraging words as well.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Have you ever done a research on : the book of war of the Lord. What can you share with me on this? I found it studying over the book of Numbers 21:14.

Thank you

Response #12:

This is the only reference in scripture (or anywhere else) to and only quote from this extra-biblical book. The Book of Jashar is similarly mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2nd Samuel 1:18. So there were other books around during the time when Moses and the later prophets wrote. Jude mentions Enoch, but the so-called "Book of Enoch" we possess today is a late, fictional composition which back-fills the passage Jude quotes (see the link). Barker of NIV Study Bible fame believes that The Book of the Wars of the Lord was a collection of songs. Barker also thinks the song about the digging of the well may also come from the same book. This thesis has merit given what we have in Numbers 21 and also the prevalence of ancient literature to consist of songs and poems first and prose only later: compare in Greek Homer's Illiad and Odyssey, the earliest Classical Greek and both poems/songs (Greek prose only came into its own four centuries later). Rather than being what we should expect, therefore, the achievement of Moses (under the guidance of the Spirit of course) in writing the Pentateuch in prose rather than in poetry is often underestimated and taken for granted.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

A fragment of papyrus, also known as the Egerton Gospel, was found some time ago which is dated at the turn of the second century. Perhaps most interestingly, this papyrus contains a miracle not contained in any of the other gospels: "Jesus walked and stood on the bank of the Jordan river; he reached out his right hand, and filled it."

If this is so, then were there more gospel traditions held by earlier Christians?

Sincerely,

Response #13:

The number of such texts, generally known under the rubric of apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, is extremely large. Just when it comes to pseudo-gospels, there are a good many such fictions which date to the same period, namely, the era when Christianity was spreading around the eastern Mediterranean in the late second to early third century but before it came into its own in popular terms, culminating with its becoming the official religion of the empire under Constantine.

What all such works have in common is that they borrow enough from the "real thing" to give them a hearing, then plug in other material from various sources, often made up out of whole cloth by the composer/editor. There's not much extant of this particular "gospel", and it doesn't seem that any other evidence for it exists outside of the handful of papyri scraps that go by the name "Egerton Gospel". Most of it consists of borrowings from John and the synoptics cobbled together. The story you relate seems to come from the apocryphal gospel of Thomas which also dates to this period.

Since the Bible is the one and only standard Christians have for determining the truth, we can be sure that undermining it in whatever ways he can is high on the devil's list of priorities (maybe less so in our Laodicean age when so few Christians seem to care what's in the Bible, come to think of it). One of the best ways to attack scripture, for those who accept its validity, is to attack on the front "what is scripture?", and the introduction of texts which purport to be biblical but which are not is a highly effective way to lead some astray. For one thing, I have noted that many Christians who are lazy about reading the Bible, get very excited about "secret gospels" or other non-canonical works – as if they were going to get some special information that others aren't privy to. This thirst for "secret wisdom" is one of the common vulnerabilities of human beings which the devil has been playing to ever since he got Eve interested in the fruit of the tree of knowing good and evil, after all (a desire motivated by pride).

God knows everything; He is all powerful; nothing that has ever happened in this world in the course of human history has ever happened without His foreknowledge – indeed, it couldn't happen at all unless He decreed it; He knows the fall of every sparrow and the loss of every hair on every head; He made space-time in the blink of an eye through His Son our Lord; He watches over all of us with His Spirit in all things. What I know about God tells me that He has not let two millennia of Christians be without some important book of the Bible, only to have it surface in woefully incomplete form in an ancient garbage dump in Egypt when the Church Age is within less than a century of being over with.

We know that the Book of Mormon was written in the 19th century, but if papyri fragments of something like it dating to the 2-3rd cent. surfaced in Egypt, would we be more likely to be persuaded that it was true? People have been writing texts similar to this since the dawn of time and attributing them to divine inspiration, but the proof is in the pudding. The Bible is inspired, and the power of God pours forth from every verse. The portions of the Egerton Gospel which are not lifted directly from the actual Word suffer mightily by comparison, and thus is it always so. Secular scholars who are not believers may not find this argument convincing, but for a believer that is more than enough to go on. I spent a good deal of my time in seminary dealing with these sorts of materials, and when all is said and done the correctness of the canon, the correctness of identifying everything outside of the canon as not the Word of God, and the wide and obvious gulf between inspired writing and man-made approximations has always been emphatically confirmed whenever I have re-examined the question. That is certainly true in this case, even though the fragments are few. Rather than repeat the glaring "tells" I see here, I would invite you to subject the material to the same test yourself and let me know what you think.

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the very Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #14:

I am from Africa and I've been visiting your site for over 8 month. i have download and printed all what i could find on ichthys.com and it has really helped me spiritually. My question is, Is there any book of the bible called the 6th and 7th book written by Moses? Because i've heard of some white garment churches posses such book use it for sorcery. Can you help?

Response #14:

Good to make your acquaintance, and I'm very happy to hear that you have benefitted from these studies!

As to your question, the so-called "sixth and seventh books of Moses" are not legitimate. They are forgeries, but not even ancient. These are magical texts apparently invented in the 18th or 19th century, give or take. In the ancient world it was very common to produce books and put them out as being by some famous author, but no book has been attacked so consistently and furiously in this way as the Bible has. The generic name for these sorts of works when speaking of non-canonical books which were not inspired by the Holy Spirit are "apocrypha and pseudepigrapha". You may have heard of the "Gospel of Judas" or the "Book of Enoch"; these are examples of the former. At least those uninspired pretenders have an ancient origin, however. The "sixth and seventh books of Moses" do not even pre-date the Renaissance. Further, since they are not only forgeries but also deal with magic, any believer who is truly walking with Christ would wish to stay far, far away from any such satanic material masquerading as the Word of God (see the links: "Religion and the Occult in Satan's System" and "Witchcraft, Sorcery and Magic in the Bible").

Here are a few other links which discuss the subject in general:

Issues of Canonicity: The Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch

Is there any Value to the Apocrypha?

The Bible and the Canon

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15:

Dear Bob,

First of all, I'd like to commend you on your website and thank God for your life and mission.

In your article Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew? you indicate that "we have more than enough information to know all we need to know from a close inspection of the canon itself."

Apparently you may not have read Claude Tresmontant's exhaustive biblical proof that, indeed, all gospels were originally written in Hebrew and translated in the same manner as the Septuagint.

Check out his books (if you can afford them) such as The Hebrew Christ and judge for yourself.

God bless,

Response #15:

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your comment, no, I have not read these books. But when you say that the author provides "exhaustive biblical proof" of his thesis that the gospels were originally written in Hebrew, are you sure this is really what you mean? Biblical proof would have to involve some statement actually in the Bible to this effect, and I can assure you that there are none. I am aware of a number of attempts to promote this particular thesis you report based upon the similarity, or so it is claimed, between the Greek of the gospels and phraseology in the Septuagint. That is a circumstantial argument, and a most unpersuasive one in my view as this can easily be explained in a number of different ways (e.g., these men all had read the LXX and both the gospels and the LXX were composed in the vernacular of "Jewish Greek"). Not only that, but having read a good deal of the LXX myself I can tell you that there are enough substantial differences between the language it employs and what we find in the gospels to want to consider them different "animals" for these purposes.

One also cannot ignore the textual evidence. While it is true that "the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence", the facts that 1) there is not a single scrap of text-evidence for this thesis – even though the New Testament is hands-down the most prolifically represented of all the ancient texts; 2) there is almost contemporaneous evidence for the Greek versions (leaving no real "window" for a transition between the time of original composition and the physical evidence we possess of, for example, John's gospel as early as the late second century – less than a 100 years, perhaps).

Finally, the only ancient report we even have on this subject is the one comment preserved by Eusebius – and that is, as the link you reference makes clear, usually misunderstood and misapplied.

Buying this thesis requires suspending disbelief on all three points to an unbearable degree. My main concern for readers of this site is that such things can be terribly distracting from actually growing in grace through the truth of the Word, as they occupy an undue amount of time and effort to pursue. Since there is nothing to be gained by accepting this thesis, it does also beg the question of why the people who push it are so adamant. Perhaps it is because, as you yourself report, the books are "expensive".

So I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

Thanks so much for your interest and for your words well-spoken.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your prompt and extensive answer. I'd just like to point out a few things:

1) I wholeheartedly agree with you that "such things can be terrible distracting from actually growing in grace the truth of the Word." I'm a newcomer to Christ concerned about those still lagging outside.

2) In my consideration, Tresmontant's books are still (mostly) in French and virtually unobtainable precisely because they deal with truths that the world or even Christians would rather not deal with. He was a Hebrew and Greek speaking scholar who spent several decades studying these issues. He is not infallible but his observations make us ponder and wonder.

3) As far as I can garner, the Bible itself does not indicate the authors, dates and manner in which it came to be written, organized and passed along. All of this information is extra-biblical and, mind it, therein we can also detect the finger of God. Ever heard about the numbers encoded in the KJV?

4) Among the first Christians were Hebrews from every synagogue of which many spoke only in Greek. It makes eminent sense that both languages would be used in some fashion but what Tresmontant's analysis reveals is that hundreds of expressions that make little sense in Greek (and even less in English) can be greatly illuminated by 'the original' Hebrew expressions. His intent is not write polemics about presumed, forever-lost manuscripts but to elucidate shades of sacred meaning which pertain to a Hebrew understanding of the New Testament. I gather that this is exactly what the Messianic Jews do as well from their own perspective.

God bless,

Response #16:

Thanks for your reply as well. As to pondering and wondering, I try to reserve that for issues which are not settled issues (as this one is in my view). The Hebrew and Greek spoken today are not the Hebrew and Greek spoken when the Bible was written. My professional life revolves around teaching and researching in ancient Greek, and I have extensive training and experience in biblical Hebrew as well. So it is at least an informed opinion when I tell you that the idea the New Testament contains "hundreds of expressions that make little sense in Greek" is, well, perplexing and objectively wrong. I have read the NT countless times and it makes sense as Greek. If T' is saying that there are Hebrew phrases which "don't make sense in Greek", that would have made the translation of the LXX impossible. The fact that there were many Jews in the diaspora who spoke no Hebrew only shows that the premise that the NT, a vehicle for promoting the gospel to the world beyond Judea, would originally be in Greek rather than Hebrew makes perfect sense (as even most Jews in the diaspora spoke Greek but not Hebrew – or even Aramaic). There was a longstanding communication between the Greek and Hebrew worlds, the Septuagint only being part of the story. There would have been no problem for almost any Hebrew speaking (or Aramaic speaking) resident of Judea-Galilee reading Greek. Most of those who lived in this area at the time were bi- and/or trilingual (at least). But for those speaking Hebrew, there could be no expectation that something written in Hebrew would be accessible to anyone outside of Judea (with the exception of scholars / scribes). Greek, however, was the one language that everyone in the east spoke, because it was the language of commerce and the language of the Roman state in the east (as it had been of the Hellenistic kingdoms which preceded Rome). I think if you would have a careful look at Delitzsch's rendering of the NT into Hebrew, you will see that not only would it have been possible for Greek to be readily understood by all at the time, but also that turning a Greek gospel into Hebrew while making use of appropriate Hebrew idioms is certainly not an impossibility. Such exercises may perhaps inform our sense of what particular Hebrew expressions lie behind some of the unique NT phraseology, but that sort of thing is pretty obvious in my view, often even when only comparing an English version of the OT versus the NT.

As far as the Bible itself, while it is true that there are some NT books which do not self-identify the author, most of them do, and in my opinion we are not in any serious doubts as to the authorship of the few which do not. Based merely upon the internal evidence, this is so. Adding the textual evidence, we are on even more solid footing. Since very early tradition agrees, I certainly have an extremely strong level of confidence on these matters.

Finally, as to gaining a "a Hebrew understanding of the New Testament", to me, this is one of those phrases which sounds great (especially to those of a scholastic bent), but is actually filled with many potential rocks and shoals. What growing Christians need is a true understanding of the New Testament. To the extent that Bible teachers use any legitimate tool or resource to get to the truth, I am all for it. But phrases like this set my radar off, especially when the Messianic movement is mentioned in concert as it is here. From my experience with these sorts of things, for every time I have seen this "perspective" provide a window into the truth, I have seen it used to distract from the truth and lead to what is false at least a hundredfold more often. Worse to tell, the genuine insights are invariable of little moment, but the falsities are often catastrophic to faith . . . should anyone believe them. Your example of "Bible codes" is a perfect one: even if there were a grain of truth or a legitimate insight to be had, that could in no way compensate for the complete loss of perspective that results for those "hooked" as to what the Bible really means and what it really is: the Word of God.

Rather than talk in generalities, therefore, I find it much more constructive for someone to take an individual case, an individual verse, and explain why and how they think their special perspective/system/analysis is useful. In most instances with this sort of thing, this is what proves the pudding (or a total lack thereof).

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus who is our all in all.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hello Bob,

I wanted to clarify some things on my side because I think I misrepresented Tresmontant.

1) His analysis relies upon dozens of expressions but, because a single expression may appear in multiple places, the number grows into the hundreds. I'm not a linguist to prove or disprove the nuances of what he proposes but...

2) His arguments lend support to a different manner and timing in which the four gospels came about. Unlike the bulk of 'learned' opinion in the West, he demonstrates from internal evidence that all four gospels had to be written (and translated) BEFORE the destruction of Jerusalem and in the midst of the fierce persecution by religious authorities, with Matthew and John being the first assembled in the 40s and Mark the last in the 60s.

3) I fully agree that the Messianic movement is full of pot holes and blind alleys. However, understanding how the Hebrews in the OT understood 'faith' and 'heart' and 'be' does help us gain an understanding that has been lost or tarnished after so many translations in languages and cultures.

4) I fully agree that "Bible codes" (including gematria) is likewise full of pot holes and blind alleys. But I was referring to particular studies which evince an uncanny or supernatural design within certain phrases (eg, gen 1:1 or john 1:1) or in the pattern/repetition of words across the entire Bible despite its multiple authors and translations. In themselves, these patterns may not add to the Christian message (though wisdom comes by counting) but are simply fingerprints that the Creator left in his own Word. All we can do is marvel.

God bless,

Response #17:

Thanks for the clarification.

I would certainly agree on the dating of the gospels. Indeed, in my opinion the evidence all points to the entire canon having been completed before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem – including the book of Revelation (see the link: "Chronological order of the books of the Bible, part 2"). Understanding Hebrew is essential to understanding the Old Testament, and is of no inconsiderable importance in understanding the New Testament. However, what I meant by the proof being in the pudding is, in a nutshell, the application of the theory to specific instances. Elaborate theories which produce only generalized and impressionistic "feelings" are all the rage in contemporary literary interpretations. Christians, however, need "solid food" to grow. So anything that contributes to "what a passage actually means" or "what a doctrine actually is" according to tangible scriptural exegesis is welcome. Anything, however, which beckons to subjectivity (in whatever name it does so) is worse than useless because it may undermine positive steps. To take your three examples, I have a very good idea of what the words "heart" and "faith" and "be" mean in scriptural terms, because the Bible is replete with information in both testaments to allow us to have a very solid, concrete appreciation of these and all other important, biblical terms (and I think even an English-only reader can get 90% of the way there in his/her personal Bible reading). To be of value, a theory has to do more than just to make the suggestion that "there is more to it", especially without at the same time pointing out 1) why a previous view is wrong; 2) where precisely it is wrong; and 3) what precisely is necessary to correct it or make it more accurate. Dreamy philosophizing, not to mention theosophizing, are not much use to Christians genuinely interested in spiritual growth – that takes actual truth, clearly taught, wholeheartedly believed and diligently applied.

As I say, I haven't read this author, so this should not be taken as any sort of criticism of him or of you or your representation. Perhaps considering an example of a particular interpretive insight would be a more direct approach here.

Yours in Jesus Christ who the truth, the very Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi, I have a few questions that have been undermining my trust inn the bible. I hope you can help clarify these matters. My understanding is that Moses wrote the first 5 books of the old testament. If this is the case how can he write about his own death in Deut 34: 5-13. In 34:10 it says there had not been a prophet like Moses since then ( how can it talk about 'since then' if it was written at the time.

Gen 36:31 says before there was any king over Israel. Again how can this be written at the time. Surely this is written after Saul.

Gen 14:14 talks about the town of Dan. Jdg 18:29 tells us Dan wasn't named till long after Abraham.

Regards

Response #18:

Good to make your acquaintance. I am happy to answer your questions. Let me say by way of introduction that whenever a believer bumps into any passage which may seem strange, or inconsistent, or otherwise disturbing, one should always remember that since the Bible is the Word of God, there is always a solution – if we but care to do as you are doing and look into the matter sufficiently So please to not ever let anything "undermine your trust in the Bible". Tests of faith of all kinds come to every believer in Christ, and the evil one is adept at finding whatever small chinks may exist in our spiritual armor. So when it comes to divinely supplied truth, please remember that God has all this figured out. The question really only is whether or not we will continue to trust Him on that score before we see the solution. Anyone can, like the Israelites, celebrate the victory of the Red Sea after the fact. It takes faith to believe that the Lord is going to part that sea before the fact (whatever the "sea" in question may be).

1) It is a well-known fact that Deuteronomy contains a short "appendix" written after Moses' death – very necessary to sum up the Torah. That is why whenever I speak of Moses' authorship of the first five books of scripture I generally put in a caveat to that effect. The addendum may have been written by Joshua (or Phineas). In any case, it was written, as with all scripture, under divine guidance and through the divine inspiration of the Spirit (and nothing in the passage or elsewhere in scripture contradicts any of the statements made therein – i.e., we are never told that Moses wrote this portion of the book).

2/3) Both of these passages are easily explained as being of genuine, Mosaic authorship. The first is explainable by the fact that this is a different "Dan" from the one in Judges (there are many examples of multiple biblical towns with the same name; e.g., there are 26 towns in the USA with the name "Paris" – and none of them are the Paris). The second is explainable by the fact that a) the evidence suggest that these kings of Edom are all of Moses' time, so that b) it would be natural to use the language he uses to describe the kingdom of Edom as older than the as yet non-existent nation of Israel "in the land"; as far are "king in Israel", is concerned, well, God knew everything that was going to happen (including the coming of the secular kingdom), and Moses would not have known most of what he wrote without the Spirit's inspiration. Also, it is the case that we have this prophecy given to Abraham (written down by Moses, after all): "kings will come from you" (Gen.17:6), so that there is nothing really untoward about the way Moses puts this.

Rather than to go into any more detail, let me paste in here a couple of quotes from C.F. Keil's work on Genesis:

So far as the situation of Dan is concerned, this passage proves that it cannot have been identical with Leshem or Laish in the valley of Beth Rehob, which the Danites conquered and named Dan (Judges 18:28-29; Joshua 19:47); for this Laish-Dan was on the central source of the Jordan, el Leddan in Tell el Kady, which does not lie in either of the two roads, leading from the vale of Siddim or of the Jordan to Damascus. [p. 206]

At any rate the list is evidently a record relating to the Edomitish kings of a pre-Mosaic age. But if this is the case, the heading, "These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel," does not refer to the time when the monarchy was introduced into Israel under Saul, but was written with the promise in mind, that kings should come out of the loins of Jacob (Genesis 35:11, cf. Genesis 17:4.), and merely expresses the thought, that Edom became a kingdom at an earlier period than Israel. Such a thought was by no means inappropriate to the Mosaic age. For the idea, "that Israel was destined to grow into a kingdom with monarchs of his own family, was a hope handed down to the age of Moses, which the long residence in Egypt was well adapted to foster" (Del.). [p.327]

The answers are always there. The only question is, "when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith [still] on the earth?" (Lk.18:8).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, the ever Faithful One.

Bob Luginbill

Question #19:

I just found your web site and love it! I haven’t spent much time there as yet, of course, but I see much that interests me. I have a basic question with which I know you’ve been confronted many times. I am interested in using the best Bible version I can to enjoy the best degree of accuracy I can find that God gave us in the originals. Presently I have a KJ, NAS, NIV, ESV, and Amplified. I honestly prefer the NIV at the moment due to the ease of reading, the lack of which is the reason I do not prefer the KJ.

As I understand it, each version of the Bible has it’s human origin in a manuscript, which, to me is nothing more than a ‘copy’ of the original. I also understand that the manuscripts from which we received the KJ and NKJ (received) are ‘pure’ while the manuscripts from which we received all the rest of the versions (critical) are ‘corrupt.’ Without the originals, how can we determine what is pure and what is corrupt?

It is so very confusing to me to read notes like "Some Hebrew manuscripts . . . ," "Some earlier manuscripts . . . ," "Some later manuscripts . . . ," some manuscripts this and some manuscripts that. Also, Acts 8:37 is completely missing in the NIV but present in the KJ. An important doctrinal point can be built upon whether verse 37 is present or absent. Likewise, in Romans 8:1 KJ has, "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." NIV has omitted "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Again, a doctrinal point can be argued here depending upon what version is used.

I could go on, I won’t. I think you can see my frustration. I certainly would appreciate any info/advice/suggestions you can offer.

Thank you!

Response #19:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your encouraging comments.

As to your questions, first, all translations are just that: translations. When I teach a particular passage and when I cannot find a version that does proper justice to the Greek or Hebrew (for whatever reason), I will very frequently translate the passage myself for the reader. However, as anyone who has made repeated use of this site will probably know, my translations focus on bringing out the doctrinal points and expanding the language in order to do that where necessary (with as many "brackets" as required). The result is not always "readable" – fine for my purposes and for a few verses, but somewhat of a burden to read if drawn out over a whole book (not to mention the entire Bible).

So I agree that "readability" is an important feature. Of course, we also would like some assurance that the wonderful quote we have just read does not seriously misrepresent what is actually there in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Sadly, whatever version we are discussing, this happens from time to time (more in some versions than in others). The reasons for this do sometimes have to do with the issue of "what is the text" (and you quote some instances of that), but not only so. Language changes over time, and even if carefully crafted the translation of a particular verse may mean slightly different things to different people. It is also frequently the case that different versions will produce translations of widely differing meaning when there is no question at all about the text just because they understand it differently. That is because translation is more of an art than a science: in anything with deep meaning, such as scripture, in order to render correctly what one finds into another language, the first step is that the translator must have a perfect understanding of what the original "means" on all levels. As no one has a perfect understanding of scripture, the interpretation of the text before translation is frequently inaccurate, leading to unhelpful, misleading, and sometimes even completely incorrect translations.

I have addressed this issue many times at Ichthys, and will include some links below if you are interested in pursuing things further. As to the versions you mention, KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, these are all reputable translations of the Bible, and a Christian could do far worse than making any of them his/her "version of choice". A quick word about the NIV: I assume that you have a print version of the "1984 NIV". To my mind, that is the NIV. The new revision which came out in 2011 and which the publisher, Biblica, has foisted on all online Bible sites, is much inferior, and surreptitiously so. Some of the small changes they have introduced completely reverse the meaning of key passages, and many of the other systematic changes they have made have seriously degraded the previous revisions' readability. Yet they call the new Bible the "NIV" even though it is essentially brand new version – one that suffers by comparison with the 1984 NIV.

As to the KJV, contrary to what you seem to have been told, while it is a very fine version for many reasons (and the NKJV is likewise one I admire and find very useful), it was translated from an inferior critical text (not a manuscript), which critical text (often referred to as the TR, or "textus receptus" or "received text") could only be based on a few very late and somewhat inferior Byzantine manuscripts. Since the 17th century, a number of much earlier and far superior manuscripts have appeared which have made the job of textual criticism, that is, figuring out the answer to your question of "what did the original autograph actual have written?", a much easier task. Textual criticism is also more of an art than a science (although it is often referred to as the latter), but suffice it to say that in my opinion those who are schooled in it and related disciplines can, with the proper theological understanding of the issues in question, come to correct conclusions about the actual original in the vast majority of cases where there are questions. It is also important to put this in perspective by saying that the number of places where there is any serious question about the text of the Bible that would lead to a substantial doctrinal difference one way or another is relatively small (less than 1% of the text, most would agree). As a Classicist by profession who deals with these sorts of issues in ancient secular materials all the time, I can tell you that this is an amazingly happy state of affairs compared to any ancient author's work. It is in fact understanding the text which most agree to that is usually the far thornier problem.

All this is not to say that the question is unimportant. I spent many years of my life obtaining the training and advanced degrees I did precisely because Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, textual criticism, translation, interpretation, systematic theology, ancient history and culture are all very important issues – for anyone who wants understand the Bible well enough to study and teach it and its truths to other Christians.

As a Christian who is trying to follow Jesus more closely through close attention to the holy scriptures, you are, it seems to me, approaching things just right. I would recommend sticking with a version you find readable, but also trying to gain some familiarity with another version as well. It is also a good idea to have the sort of collection you do, and, whenever you bump into a passage that seems to teach or suggest something that appears somehow foreign to or at odds with what you see the scriptures saying elsewhere, check those other versions to determine if you have an "outlier translation" which may be incorrect. The next step for those who are really serious about spiritual growth and eternal rewards is to find the right Bible teaching that will move you beyond what may be gotten from reading the Bible alone. To this end, you are most welcome here at Ichthys any time.

As to the specifics you ask about in your email, Acts 8:37 is not part of the Bible. It did occur in one of the late mss. that the editors of the TR consulted, and so they included it, and so the translator teams for the KJV translated it. But it is a late addition. None of the best and earliest mss. include it. I.e., it is not found in the Chester Beatty nor the Bodmer papyri, nor in Sinaiticus, the best ms., nor in Alexanderinus, Vaticanus, or Ephraemi rescriptus. It is safe to say that no serious textual critic would try to restore it against this insurmountable array of evidence. Also, it is easier to explain how the verse was inserted than how it might have fallen out of all of these different early witnesses independently of each other (the odds against that are astronomical). Adding it, however, can be seen as an attempt by a scribe to explain that baptism is for believers only (i.e., we have here an interpolation).

In Romans 8:1, we have a similar situation as to the evidence for dis-inclusion (not Alexandrinus in this case, however, which does read part of the addition but not all). The identical phrase occurs later in verse four, and some mss. have half of the phrase, some all of it. Since the earliest versions do not read this additional phrase – but some do have it in the marginalia by later hands – it seems clear that we have to do here with a gloss; that is, since this first verse is a bit of "head-scratcher" to some, it is easy to see how some scribe might have wanted to explain what was meant. He did so by referencing the language in verse four (not a correct interpretation, but understandable as a try at explanation), and in some ms. traditions the explanation worked its way into the text, a not uncommon event in the history of ancient manuscripts, keeping absolutely everything when the ms. was recopied.

The bottom line for both of these passages – as is usually the case – is that 1) there is no real doubt for those of us who do this sort of thing professionally but that these additions are not part of the original text; and 2) there is no doubt in my mind from a theological perspective as well that they do not fit and are not to be considered scripture. Both propositions taken together give me personally the highest degree of confidence on the matter. Apologies if the above is not persuasive. I have been doing this for over thirty years and I have come to know the "witnesses" quite well (along with the means of their corroboration) in the way that an experienced tracker can look at the ground and have certainty about where the trail leads where I would see only dirt. Of course, before we commit to following any particular "tracker" it is certainly our right to check him out to make sure he knows what he is doing. Anything else would be folly. On the other hand too, we aren't going to get where we are going without a good tracker, so best to find the best one we can as soon as we can and get on the trail forward.

Here are some of those links I promised:

Bible Versions I.

Bible Versions II

The Greek Text of the New Testament and some Issues of Textual Criticism.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V.

Feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #20:

Dear Bob,

As for the name written on His robe; John's account is of a vision, but of a divinely inspired vision. John knew full well what a horse and rider looked like so I believe this is something we can take literally - not as John's closest approximation. Would you agree?

Thanks for your comments on the NRSV. I am unqualified to recognize a mistranslation and it's something I worry about. I can sympathize with the translation problems, though. Translating the word "hough," for example, with a single modern word seems impossible.

A question about translating and true manuscripts: since many of the apostles wrote of errors being introduced into true doctrine, how is it known which manuscript is most accurate?

Thanks for your insight.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #20:

Yes, I would agree entirely with your point in the first paragraph.

As to your question, textual criticism is both an art and a science. These are issues best appreciated when the languages have been thoroughly learned and with experience in, for example, the textual criticism of Classical Greek and Latin manuscripts. Taking it from the divine viewpoint, it is often the case, in my opinion, that God allows enough roadblocks in order to test and demonstrate true interest, but that He never makes things anywhere near "impossible". If we knock, it is always opened to us – but that doesn't mean it's dropped in our lap: we have to find the door, knock and knock as long as it takes (doing so the correct way of course) and then it will opened. That is to say, it most definitely is possible to establish the correct text (and evaluation of manuscripts is certainly part of that process); it's just not easy for non-linguists and non-specialists (not to mention non-believers, as in the case of many linguists and specialists) to do so with a high percentage of success. We can get there, but it takes work. That is one of the reasons, in my view, that the "KJV-onlyist" movement is so popular: it's just easier to assume (albeit with woeful incorrectness) that the KJV is or approaches being divinely inspired in these matters. One last general observation: when speaking of textual "problems", these comprise less than one percent of scripture, the 99% being beyond doubt from whatever viewpoint a serious person would consider the issue. And as to the one percent, the vast bulk of these "problems" are theologically insignificant. Here is a list at the link of false interpolations into scripture which, while not complete, will give you some idea of the scope of the problem: Interpolations.

These are important problems of which to be aware, but I don't want to leave the impression that this is a widespread issue. In the vast majority of verses in the Bible, all the major evidence agrees precisely as to the text, and even where there is disagreement, in most of those cases the differences are not significant. The Bible is the best preserved set of manuscripts from the ancient world, bar none. We don't think of Plato, for example, as being rife with problems because of error having crept into the manuscript tradition, and yet the New Testament is at least a thousand times better documented than any of his dialogues. The point is, that it is in the nature of such things for major errors to be rare, for errors that do creep into one tradition to be easily ferreted out by recourse to the rest of the evidence, and for the type of thing you are talking about, deliberate attempts to deceive, to be problematic to pull off, and virtually impossible to escape detection when they have been perpetrated in some set of mss. (see the previous link). That is why the vast majority of false teachers then and now have not tried to attack the text of scripture directly, but to replace or "augment" it with false gospels and additional non-biblical works of various kinds (in antiquity, not only do we have the famous Apocrypha, but also an incredibly large universe of works known collectively as "Pseudepigrapha"). God has therefore not allowed the holy scriptures to be seriously affected. As a comparison of a variety of English versions will show, they are all pretty much the same in terms of the essential text they are translating, even if they often "understand" that text in different ways (that's another question). But He has also not produced a situation where no effort is needed to understand these matters. I recently got an email from someone asking why God couldn't just answer all the theological problems and questions people have by making things "plainer" in scripture. To me, the answer is obvious: to find out who is interested in knocking to get the answers, and who is not.

Here are a few more links that will lead you to some of the things I have written on this topic:

The Greek Text of the New Testament and some Issues of Textual Criticism.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II.

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III.

Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible: part 2

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L. 

Question #21:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for explaining the evaluation of manuscripts. I should have known the answer, because I rely on the Holy Spirit to make clear those passage of scripture I need to understand. In many ways, Bob, I believe you have been a part of that process. Thank you. I believe faith is the most important element required of us and in answer to your other correspondent, I would suggest that the reason our Lord doesn't make it simple is because understanding scripture, I believe, requires faith. That's why He used parables. He even explained his approach, which I thought was quite clear. To my embarrassment, I didn't consider faith in relation to the manuscript question. We can be blind when we think we are seeing. Thank you for pointing that out.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #21:

You are very welcome. And you make some good points. Blessedly, we have a massive amount of information available in the holy scriptures that gives our faith something to dig into – would that we all dug into it more – and it does take "digging", not only by qualified, diligent pastor/teachers, but by every believer who wants to grow in Christ, push forward spiritually, and make his/her mark in the ministry Jesus has called them to.

Your brother in the Body,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Bob, at this time of Thanksgiving I am giving thanks. Your website is the 'gold test' you refer to in the q and a concerning the Apocrypha. How enlightening. Thank you for all your labor to make level paths for us to walk on. Thank you for becoming who G-D created you to be, and through Christ, helping me discover that life also.

Response #22:

I'm also grateful for your encouragement and support – and especially for your prayers!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Dear Professor Luginbill,

I have come across a reference to the so-called seven sapiential books of the bible: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach.

I am unfamiliar with this notion and am curious to know the history and origin of the designation "Sapiential books". I am aware that this designation is frequently used in Bible studies to designated all or some of the seven books mentioned. But I am not aware of where or from whom this designation originates.

I have seen some reference to the tradition stemming from the medieval publishers of the so-called Paris Bible tradition that groups these books together in the above order and this survives today in roman Catholic Bibles. But the origin of the "sapiential" designation remains obscure.

Can you provide any information or references on the origin of this?

Thank You,

Response #23:

Good to make your acquaintance. The five biblical books you list demonstrate certain similarities to other non-biblical materials of the past (both in the apocrypha you include here as well as in biblical pseudepigrapha and other works of proverbs and related poetic compositions). This collective "genre" of ancient literature is often called "Wisdom Literature" and is also often studied together by scholars on account of certain perceived commonalities (preeminently, poetic format used to express adages and the like).

I have never heard the term "sapiential" before, but it is apparently an attempt to make the moniker "wisdom literature" sound a bit more erudite – sapio in Latin means "to be wise", so that "sapiential", if it were a word, would mean something like "containing wisdom" (a standard adjectival ending being placed on the present participle root as in "existential" from existo). As I often tell my students, if you want to make something sound more important, say it in Latin.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #24:

Dear Professor Luginbill,

Thank you for your quick response. Evidently I misunderstood from your web-site that you were proficient in biblical history. My apologies for distracting you.

Incidentally, my readers are generally sufficiently well informed to understand that Latin is not only legitimate but essential but to reflect historical continuity in multi-generational and cross cultural literature. Mis-perceived connotations of artificially inflated importance are na ve.

I assure you my usage of sapiential is well documented not only in the better English dictionaries, but in a long tradition of Biblical studies, as easily found references.

However, undeserved usage of erudite monikers to falsely claim greater stature than one is capable of demonstrating is an abuse - Professor.

Sincerely,

Response #24:

Looks like I struck a nerve. Apologies – I had assumed that you were asking a question from a spiritual perspective.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

sapiential: Epithet of the ‘wisdom’ books of the Bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus); also applied occas. to kindred writings outside the canon. [So in ecclesiastical Latin and French.] Also applied to similar writings in Old English.

According to their references, since the 19th cent. the word seems to have dropped out of standard usage until relatively recently (e.g., your bibliography), resurrected no doubt to give extra-biblical literature (and its scholastic study) a certain cachet (Q.E.D.).

Bob L.

Question #25:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Regarding your online comments about some of the contents of my research-book about the ending of Mark: I have selected some sentences from your comments which may suggest that you need to take a more careful look at the evidence.

RDL: "There are a number of ‘longer endings’ of Mark" –

There is only one longer ending of Mark – verses 9-20. With the Freer Logion added, as in Codex W, this is still the longer ending; a ship does not become a different ship when a barnacle attaches to it.

RDL: – "which were composed by unknown persons and added illegitimately during the middle ages."

Verses 9-20 can be demonstrated to have been present in copies of Mark used in the 100’s, 200’s, 300’s, and 400’s. Saying that the passage was added in the Middle Ages is rather misleading.

RDL: "The process of adding to Mark is an ancient one, dating back to at least the fifth century A.D."

That’s a bit like saying that the United States Constitution dates back to at least the mid-1800’s. Justin, Tatian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Ambrose, Augustine, etc., used the contents of this passage.

RDL: "The process of erroneously adding to ancient ms. never ends; the fourth version of extending Mark adds even to the earlier "traditional version" (it is preserved in codex "I" and in Jerome, and has the apostles discoursing with Christ)."

The interpolation known as the Freer Logion is in Codex W, not "Codex I."

RDL: "The problem is that most Christians do not understand enough about the issues involved to be able to sort out unimpeachable testimony from pure obfuscation . . . That makes pamphlets like the one in the link shared all the more despicable."

"Despicable"? Insults are the resort of the desperate.

RDL: "Let me dispatch this monumental waste of time as economically as possible."

It looks like you thought it was such a waste of time that you didn't take the time to read it carefully before attempting to dispatch it.

RDL: "The case turns upon the witness of the two oldest and best manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vatincanus (aka Aleph and B respectively)."

That should be "Vaticanus," not "Vatincanus." (We all make mistakes.)

RDL: "These two manuscripts go back to within a few hundred years of the penning of the original autographs, and are rarely "wrong" individually and almost never so when they agree."

Such a statement could never be made by anyone with a modicum of familiarity with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. They disagree over 3,000 times in the Gospels alone.

RDL: "Author's argument for the fact that the longer ending of Mark is missing in these mss. is essentially that multiple pages were deliberately taken out of the mss. and replaced with other pages which do not contain the longer ending."

Apparently you did not read my work very carefully at all. I do not argue that pages containing the main copyist’s work were removed from Codex Vaticanus. I argue, instead, that the distinct, deliberately placed blank space in Vaticanus which follows Mark 16:8 was placed there by the copyist because although his exemplar did not contain verses 9-20, he recollected the verses from another manuscript he had seen, and attempted to reserve space for them, in the event that the eventual owner of the codex wanted to include the passage.

Regarding Codex Sinaiticus, I argue that four pages produced by the main copyist, initially containing Mark 14:54 – Luke 1:56, were removed, and were replaced by pages made by a different copyist, specifically, by the supervisor of the scriptorium where Sinaiticus was made. But this is not really a matter of argumentation; it is a matter of evidence. If you were familiar with the introductory materials about Codex Sinaiticus, you would not question the observation that Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 is written on a cancel-sheet (i.e., one piece of parchment, constituting four pages); this is acknowledged by Lake, by Milne & Skeat, and by Jongkind. There is not any question about it.

RDL: "In Sinaiticus, for example, the text of Luke actually begins on the same page where Mark ends – with the ending in verse 8 (i.e., Quire 77, Folio 5). Since ancient Greek is written without spaces between words in order to conserve space, matching up a new four pages in the middle of a document this long and complex would thus inevitably have left a tell-tale gap at the end of the insertion (there is no gap)."

It appears that you have drawn a conclusion about this too hastily. The copyist who made the cancel-sheet avoided a gap at the end of the last page of the sheet by carefully compressing his lettering throughout Luke 1:1-56. This indicates that he had detected, in the main copyist’s work, a significant omission somewhere in the text of Luke 1:1-56. He was not worried about leaving a gap; the challenge that he faced was the task of rewriting Luke 1:1-56 in the same space that the main copyist had used, including about 300 letters which the main copyist had accidentally skipped.

RDL: "The "hand" of the text would have to be different (it is the same hand of the same scribe throughout this section)."

No; the hand changes; Mk. 14:54-Lk. 1:56 is by a different copyist than the surrounding text. Read what I wrote about this in the research-book, and if you still wonder about this, ask me again. (Or you could go to the Codex Sinaiticus website, and notice that when you look at Mark 14:53, the attribution is to Scribe A, but when you look at Mark 14:55 (on the next page), the attribution is to Scribe D.)

RDL: "The precise same thing would have had to have happened also in the case of Vaticanus – in a different century and on a different continent it would seem."

I have not proposed that "the precise same thing" happened in these two manuscripts. I think the wording that I used in the research-book is clear about this, so I must encourage you to read more carefully so that you do not get imaginary ideas about what I wrote, and then misrepresent what I wrote, and then share your dismissal of your misrepresentations with others as if what you are dismissing has something to do with what I wrote.

What I propose to explain the blank space after Mark 16:8 in Vaticanus is not complicated: the copyist was using an exemplar in which the text of Mark ended at 16:8. He recollected verses 9-20, and was not sure if the eventual owner of the manuscript would want those verses included or not, so he attempted to reserve blank space where they could be added. In the case of Sinaiticus, the evidence is more complex: the proof-reader of the manuscript detected a serious flaw somewhere in the text of Luke 1:1-56, and decided that the page would have to be redone, which meant re-writing all four pages on the parchment-sheet. He began by writing the text of Luke, beginning at the top of the 11th column. Once he had successfully fit the text of Luke 1:1-56 into the last six columns of the cancel-sheet, he went back to the cancel-sheet’s first column and commenced writing Mark 14:54b-16:8 – except, after writing normally for a while, he lapsed into using the compressed lettering that he had used when writing Luke 1:1-56. He realized his mistake and resumed writing normally. But then he accidentally skipped most of 16:1. As a result, when he turned the page, he realized that he did not have enough letters to reach the column before the beginning of Luke; that is, if he had written column 9 normally, he would have reached the end of Mark 16:8 in column 9, and column 10 would have been blank. And he did not want to leave a blank column here. That is why he drastically stretched out his lettering in column 9. Again, all these deductions are explained in the research-book, along with a consideration of the decorative design-work that follows Mk. 16:8 in Sinaiticus.

In addition, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are both assigned production-dates in the 300’s. Also, rather than being produced on different continents, it’s pretty clear that they were both produced at the same scriptorium, as Lake and Skeat have both affirmed.

I have included with this e-mail a copy of the most recent edition of Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20, as well as a supplemental article taking to task some commentators’ less-than-precise claims about various aspects of the evidence pertaining to this passage of Scripture.

It occurs to me that Louisville is not very far away. Perhaps it would be beneficial if we could hold a debate on this subject sometime.

Yours in Christ,

Response #25:

Dear Rev.,

Apologies for the delay in response. There is no doubt that you have done some careful and thoughtful work. I did not mention you name, but included your link for the benefit of readers who might be interested in getting your side of the issue (I would be happy to include your particulars or, alternatively, to remove the link, depending only on your preferences).

My main concern in this ministry is with the edification of my fellow believers, and specifically in this instance with inoculating them against putting any faith in the erroneous interpolations at the end of Mark which were, sadly, perpetuated by the KJV. So to the extent that I have given your work short shrift or misrepresented any of your positions, I profoundly apologize. I hope you may be able to appreciate the distinction between an email response posted on a personal ministry website and a referred article in a scholarly journal. Still, it is important to be accurate or as near to that perfect standard as possible, so I do acknowledge that you have spent more time and effort on this particular issue than I have and this shows in your detailed commentary.

As to your specific points:

1) There are multiple alternative endings to Mark, regardless of what they are called. The differentiations constitute significant evidence – merely by their existence – against the long ending being legitimate.

2) I am not aware of any complete copy of verses 9-20 dating to before 300. I believe the medieval reference to be correct in that regard.

3) The question is one of the provenance of the interpolation. None of these authors quotes the interpolation in toto as far as I am aware.

4) Yes, corrected (they're both Freer donations in the same museum).

5/6) See apology above. I do think you are standing up for a bad cause here.

7) Corrected (thanks).

8) There are disagreements and there are disagreements. As you no doubt know, the vast majority of these disagreements come from the prevalence of itacisms in Sinaiticus (but spelling kleisai as klisai is not any sort of a disagreement of substance). When one takes out the disputes over easily confused pronouns and other such minor issues, the point remains a good one I think. The agreement of these similar mss. on such a substantial issue – the putative end of a gospel which otherwise terminates in very abrupt fashion – is not a small point, however one may wish to count up apples and oranges.

9a) These spaces are not uncommon, so the supposition you offer can be only that, not any sort of proof. There is a similar space at the end of the gospel of Matthew in Vaticanus, just for example.

9b) There are only two cancel-leaves in question here, not four (according to Tischendorf, Lake, Scrivener et al.). Further, as Lake states and as has been commonly felt, "All these writers worked on the MS. before it left the scriptorium" (emphasis added). Lake says this of hand D and the cancel-leaves, and that has been the traditional view. In other words, whatever the changes made here, this is hardly proof of some grand conspiracy meant to suppress verses 9-20. If it were, what are the replacement leaves in Matthew, 1st Thessalonians or Hebrews hiding? It seems to me (as it has seemed to most others) better to see this as part of the process in the scriptorium of producing the most clean and accurate copy possible. Whatever the reason for the replacement (ink spill?), there is no proof that it was done because A had written in verses 9-20. And even if that were the case, hypothetically speaking, the best judgment of that day would still have to be seen to have prevailed, as the verses are not there now as a result of that very early, contemporary editing process.

10) See above. The point is that overly compressing or expanding for large insertions and deletions is something that could be detected, but that is not the case here. As already noted, these gaps are the norm after the conclusion of books in these mss. And the gap here at the end of Mark is not particularly long. I would say that the shoe is on the other foot. It is hard to see how verses 9-20 could be included on leaf 29 and still have any sort of accustomed break between the two gospels – if it would fit at all (I am skeptical). That would be the unusual situation, not the gap (e.g., Mark begins on a new leaf in Sinaiticus, even though there is an entire column open on the last leaf of Matthew (except for three letters).

11) You have a point here – at least as it is traditionally presented. I have my doubts in respect to these two leaves, but I will defer to Tischendorf on this one.

12) Again, apologies for any misrepresentations. As to provenance, there is no direct evidence that the two mss. come from the same scriptorium, and scholars assign the place of production of each to a variety of different locations as I am sure that you are aware. I don't think there is any probative value to be found based on an assumption that they are the work of the same shop at (effectively) the same time. The odds weigh heavily against both suppositions, so the point still stands that the same thing (meaning the result not the manner in which it came about) happening to both mss. is very unlikely. As to the way in which the supposed lacuna occurs in Vaticanus, I would strongly suggest that your disclaimer to the effect that it is "not complicated" must be meant ironically. None of what you propose is obvious from the ms. itself. The scenario you propose, moreover, asks the reader to accept an awful lot on faith. But as the famous Texas mom and pop store sign says, "In God we trust – all others pay cash". What we are actually left with is the absence of verses 9-20 in ms. B as well as Aleph, and an unconvincing (to me at least) explanation for the reasons why – if they were really part of the Bible.

Given your strong defense and obvious passion for the issue, I do not expect you to be convinced by the above, but perhaps it will help you in refining your arguments. As I say, I feel it to be a terribly bad cause. Verses 9-20 are, theologically speaking, terribly destructive – should anyone treat them as if they are the Word of God. They are not, and that is really the bottom line in all of this, regardless of what anyone may think about the KJV, these two Greek mss., and process of textual criticism.

One final note, the very "un-Marcan" nature of these verses (i.e., it certainly does not sound like Mark's Greek), and the fact that the additions can easily be seen as a thoughtful (though theologically befuddled) scribe's eclectic attempt to supply some nice ending from what else he thought he knew about scripture, is an argument that should not be overlooked. For example:

"first to Mary Magdalene" (Jn.20:1)

"seven demons" (Lk.8:2)

"announced [it] to the others" (Jn.20:18)

"He appeared to two" (Lk.24:13)

"they announced it to the others" (Lk.24:33-34)

"to the eleven, and reproached them for their lack of faith" (Jn.20:27)

"go and proclaim" (Matt.28:19; Acts 1:8)

"the one who believes and has been baptized" (Matt.28:19)

"throw out demons" (Mk.3:15)

"speak in new tongues" (Acts 2:4)

"pick up snakes" (Acts 28:3-5; cf. Ps.91:13)

"drink deadly drinks without harm" (2Kng.4:40-41)

"lay their hands upon the sick" (Acts 28:8)

"was taken up" (Acts 1:9)

"through the accompanying signs" (Heb.2:4)

The problem is that many of the narrative pieces do not fit precisely with what we know from the other gospels, and many of the "theological" pieces are "off"; e.g., just because Paul was not killed by the snake on Malta does not mean that we can safely handle snakes with impunity. It seems to have been the interpolater's goals to 1) fill out the story of the resurrection appearances which he is not able to do from memory without making mistakes and misrepresenting the chronology (for example, the apostles have already seen the Lord when the two believers who met the Lord on the road to Emmaus arrive); and 2) to tot up as many "signs" as possible, drawing on both testaments; however in doing so he gives the impression that these "signs" are all legitimate and universal for the whole Church for all time – neither of which propositions is true. Finally, when he says "he who believes and has been baptized will be saved" he directly contradicts himself in the next phrase when he says "he who disbelieves will be condemned" – because either water-baptism has something to do with salvation or it does not (it does not; please see the link). In short, the list above is meant to show that there is nothing here new "in type", nothing that an interpolater could not have gleaned from elsewhere in scripture; what is "new" are the mistakes, in narrative and theology, which have been exploited in bad causes ever since.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the Word of God Himself.

Bob L.

Question #26:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for your reply. I hope this response to parts of your reply will be worthwhile. When you refer to Mark 16:9-20 as an "erroneous interpolation," you are rejecting twelve verses which stand in every undamaged Greek manuscript of Mark 16 except for Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. With attestation that consists of over 99.9% of the Greek manuscripts, and over 40 patristic sources from the era of the Roman Empire, it would be most misleading to give the impression that everyone who considers these verses authentic only does so because the passage is in the KJV. The phrase "multiple alternative endings" has the effect of blurring the evidence: there are just two independent endings that follow Mark 16:8, namely, (a) verses 9-20, in almost all copies, and (b) the Shorter Ending. The Shorter Ending appears by itself only in the Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis, which is probably the worst-copied manuscript of Mark in existence in any language. In addition, I do not grant that the mere existence of the abrupt ending at verse 8, and the mere existence of the Shorter Ending, constitutes significant evidence against the legitimacy of verses 9-20. By the same logic, the mere existence of a contender in the same boxing-ring with a heavyweight champion constitutes significant evidence that the champion must lose. (There are numerous variant-units in which three, four, five, or more rival variants exist; we do not conclude that this means that none of them are original.) You mentioned that you are not aware of any complete copy of verses 9-20 dating to before 300." Of course not; nor are you aware of any complete copy of verses 1-8 dating to before 300. No such manuscripts are extant. You mentioned that you still believe that Mark 16:9-20 was added in medieval times. How do you account for that in light of the specific quotation of Mark 16:19 by Irenaeus in Against Heresies Book3, which was composed around 184? Mark 16:9-20 is cited by Augustine using Greek and Latin manuscripts; the Vulgate and the Peshitta both contain these verses. What parameters are you using for the term medieval? You raised a question about "the provenance of the interpolation." I am not quite sure what you mean. Are you saying that when Tatian merged the text of the four Gospels into one continuous account, thus producing the Diatessaron, he borrowed 12 verses from some other composition? Are you saying that when Irenaeus says that he is quoting from near the end of Mark’s Gospel, and proceeds to quote Mark 16:19, that he was actually quoting something else? Regarding the disagreements between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus: there are a lot of disagreements more serious than itacisms: In Mt. 13:35, is the prophet’s name Isaiah? Sinaiticus says so, but not Vaticanus. In Mark 1:1, is Jesus Christ introduced as the Son of God? Vaticanus says so, but not Sinaiticus. In Luke 24:13, how far away is Emmaus from Jerusalem? Vaticanus says 60 stadia, but Sinaiticus says 160. In Luke 24:51, is Jesus taken up into heaven? Vaticanus says so, but not Sinaiticus. I could keep going and going. There are oodles and oodles of translatable differences between these two manuscripts. You claimed, "These spaces are not uncommon." I certainly agree that the existence of space below the end of a book is not uncommon (and I noted this in the research-book). What is uncommon in Vaticanus is the blank column which follows the end of Mark. Throughout Codex Vaticanus, whenever a copyist finished a book, he started the next book at the top of the very next column, whenever it was feasible to do so – except in the case of the end of Mark. (There are three blank spaces in the Old Testament portion, but those are due to quirks in the format of the text or the production-process of the codex; for details, see the research-book.) To emphasize: the blank column in Vaticanus between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1 is the only deliberately placed blank column in the entire New Testament portion of the codex, and the three blank spaces in the Old Testament portion are due to (a) a change from a three-column format to a two-column format (for the Books of Poetry), (b) a seam, where one copyist’s work ends and the pages by the other copyist begin, and (c) the end of the Old Testament portion of the codex. You stated, "There is a similar space at the end of the gospel of Matthew in Vaticanus, just for example." That is normal blank space, below the end of a book. It is not an entire blank column. You wrote, "There are only two cancel-leaves in question here, not four (according to Tischendorf, Lake, Scrivener et al.)." A leaf = two pages (front and back). Picture a church-bulletin, consisting of one piece of paper, folded vertically in the middle. That’s what is meant by the "sheet" in the term "cancel-sheet," which consists of 1 piece of parchment, 2 leaves, and 4 pages. You wrote, "As Lake states and as has been commonly felt, ‘All these writers worked on the MS. before it left the scriptorium.’ I mention this in the research-book too; the person who made the cancel-sheet was the proof-reader of the codex, and probably was the supervisor of the scriptorium. You wrote, "In other words, whatever the changes made here, this is hardly proof of some grand conspiracy meant to suppress verses 9-20." I don’t think you will find any proposal of such a grand conspiracy on the part of fourth-century copyists in my research-paper. I suspect that when the copyist who made this cancel-sheet sat down to begin making it, he was motivated to do so because of an error the main copyist had committed somewhere in the text of Luke 1:1-56. What is implied by the shift in the lettering of Mark 16:2-8 on the cancel-sheet in Sinaiticus (the one containing Mk. 14:54-Lk. 1:1-56), and by the elaborate decorative-design that follows the end of the text, is that although the copyist (Scribe D) did not object to leaving large blank spaces elsewhere, he went to extra effort, in this particular place, to avoid leaving a blank column between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1; in addition, he fenced off the end of the text, so to speak, via a unique elaborate decorative design. This implies, as John Gwynn and Clarence Williams have observed, that the copyist was aware of at least one other way the Gospel of Mark could end, and he made special effort to disallow the adoption of additional text beyond verse 8. You asked, "What are the replacement leaves in Matthew, 1st Thessalonians or Hebrews hiding?" They are simply other places where the main copyist made such a bad mistake that the proofreader decided that the page (and thus, the entire sheet of parchment, consisting of four pages of written text) had to be replaced. You wrote, "Whatever the reason for the replacement (ink spill?), there is no proof that it was done because A had written in verses 9-20." I agree. As I already mentioned, the drastic lettering-compression in Luke 1:1-56 indicates that the person who made the cancel-sheet was aspiring to remedy an omission of a large portion of the text somewhere in Luke 1:1-56. You wrote, "The point is that overly compressing or expanding for large insertions and deletions is something that could be detected, but that is not the case here." Are you talking about Sinaiticus? The lettering-expansion and lettering-compression certainly can be detected; just look at the difference in the number of letters in the cancel-sheet in column 9 (552) and the columns in Luke (681, 672, 702, 687. 725, and 679). Whereas the main copyist’s average rate of letters per column was about 630. You wrote, "As already noted, these gaps are the norm after the conclusion of books in these mss." Again: space under the subscription (closing-title) is not unusual. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary's writers must have thought otherwise, but they were wrong.) I am not claiming that the space below Mark 16:8 in Sinaiticus is unusual. (In Vaticanus, the additional blank column is unique.) The unusual and suggestive features in Sinaiticus are the erratic shifts in the copyist’s rate of letters per column, and the emphatic decorative design. You wrote, "It is hard to see how verses 9-20 could be included on leaf 29 and still have any sort of accustomed break between the two gospels -- if it would fit at all (I am skeptical)." I am not proposing that the person who made the cancel-sheet in Sinaiticus did so because the main copyist’s pages included Mark 16:9-20. I am proposing that as he made the cancel-sheet, he made a couple of mistakes (specifically, he accidentally reverted, briefly, to the lettering-compression that he had used when writing Luke 1:1-56, and then accidentally omitted most of 16:1) and as a result he did not have enough text to reach column 10 using normal lettering. The idea of leaving a blank column between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1 was unacceptable to him, and so he resorted to stretching out his lettering so as to be able to place a few lines at the top of column 10. Then he made the decorative design after 16:8 uniquely emphatic. (Replicas of the other decorative-designs by Scribe D are online at

www.curtisvillechristianchurch.org/AuthSuppl.html

for comparison; you can also track them down at the Codex Sinaiticus website.) The details about this are slightly complex and so I have attached an article, "A Textual Repair in Codex Sinaiticus," to this e-mail; see the article for additional information and if anything remains unclear I would be glad to address any questions. You wrote, "As to provenance, there is no evidence that the two mss. come from the same scriptorium." There is plenty of evidence; I could present the evidence but to save time I will settle for presenting some informed opinions. Tischendorf not only believed that they came from the same scriptorium, but that one copyist worked on both manuscripts. Lake rejected Tischendorf’s theory that Aleph and B share a copyist, but he affirmed (in his 1911 preface), "There is, if the main body of the text be put aside, a high probability for the view that the two codices [he is referring to Aleph and B] came from the same scriptorium," and a bit furth along he writes, "I am, however, convinced that the probability is rather that we have to deal with two hands of the same scriptorium." And, a few lines later: "There is in any case good evidence for thinking that the two great codices come from the same scriptorium." Milne & Skeat, too, favored the view that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were made at the same place, and mentioned (without firmly deciding the question one way or the other) that a similarity of handwriting exists between the handwriting of a copyist who worked on B, and the handwriting of a copyist who worked on Aleph (though not the same copyist that Tischendorf thought it was); "the affinities of D," they wrote, "are with Hand A of the Vaticanus." Skeat proposed in 1999 that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were both among the 50 copies that Eusebius produced for Constantine. And J. K. Elliott has also weighed in on the subject, stating "Scribe D of Sinaiticus was also very likely to have been one of two scribes of Codex Vaticanus." You wrote, "As to the way in which the supposed lacuna occurs in Vaticanus, I would strongly suggest that your disclaimer to the effect that it is ‘not complicated’ must be meant ironically." No; it is meant completely seriously, without irony: the copyist was using an exemplar in which the text of Mark stopped at 16:8, but he recollected verses 9-20 and attempted to reserve space for the absent verses in case the eventual owner of the manuscript wanted to include them. What is complicated about that? You wrote, "Verses 9-20 are, theologically speaking, terribly destructive -- should anyone treat them as if they are the Word of God." Yet somehow authors such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Ambrose, Epiphanius, Augustine, etc., etc., managed to treat these verses as Scripture without employing them to destructive ends. With these verses in the overwhelming majority of Greek manuscripts, besides the Vulgate and Peshitta, and with these verse in the ordinary lectionary for Ascension-Day, and in the Resurrection reading-cycle, most congregations, for centuries, have not used them destructively. The Reformation leaders such as Luther and Calvin, and influential preachers such as Spurgeon, managed to regard these verses as Scripture, without using them destructively. Can you say that you have judged the case regarding the genuineness of these verses on the basis of a fully informed study of the evidence pertaining to them, and not according to how they have been abused by incompetent interpreters and cults?

Yours in Christ,

Response #26:

Hello Rev.,

1) The absence of verses 9-20 from the two best manuscripts, however explained, remains for me solid proof of the lack of genuineness of this passage. Their inclusion in the next generation of mss. is not decisive, especially when one considers that in many of the better mss. these verses are marked as spurious. It was a standard practice in copying ancient texts to include everything for fear of losing anything. This practice accounts for many glosses, interpolations, and erroneous content intruding into ancient mss. of all types. In such situations, antiquity counts for more than mere numbers.

2/3) You are entitled to your view of the validity of the evidence, I to mine. For me, alternatives are strong evidence of a mixed tradition which in turn argues for non-originality.

4/5/6) Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus only exists in two books in Greek. Whatever we may want to make of the Latin translation/expansion, it came much later and we cannot discount its expansion by another author. The style is so inferior to the Greek original I would not want to put any important weight on it. Reconstructing the Diatessaron is even more questionable (I believe the applicable Marcan portions which survive are in Arabic).

7) The more one argues for differences between Aleph and B, the more significant, it would seem to me, their agreement on the omission will become.

8/9/10) The point is, replacement is conventional and happens elsewhere too. There are many reasons for it, and I see no reason to assume that the verses in question being taken out was the motive – and no proof either, for that matter.

11) This is a critical point. Even if we were to cede you all other arguments, the point is that the best judgment of the time was that the verses were not legitimate. After all, they are not present, and if there were changes to effect that, then the judgment was not accidental but very deliberate. Further, in that hypothetical case, the judgment would have been based upon references, authorities and information to which we are no longer privy. Under such circumstances, before accepting the passage as scripture, it would take some very strong reasoning a) to show why the verses deserve to be considered scripture, and b) to demonstrate how the editors of both Aleph and B had made such a huge mistake and why. The list of allusions to other scriptures provided at the end of the last email speaks to this point as well.

12) Doesn't this run counter to your argument in terms of #11? It may be some slim proof of deliberate omission (requiring us to take a lot on faith), but not of the judgment at the time that the lines were erroneous – rather it would seem to confirm that judgment.

13) If that is the case with the other ones then it ought to be considered the most likely reason for the cancel leaves in Mark as well.

14/15/16) See #12.

17) There is evidence and there is evidence. No one knows, but probability is against it, obviously. As you point out, there is not any sort of absolute conviction on the part of those who have suggested the possibility; scholarly conjecture is still just conjecture. To the extent that accepting this suggestion as a given is critical to the argument, to that extent the argument is seriously weakened.

18) *If true, the one thing we can conclude for certain is that the text the scribe was using did not have these verses. We are certainly free to speculate as you do about the reason for the spacing, but in the scenario you propose we have merely backed up the evidence for the omission by a full century or perhaps even two hundred years!

19) There are, it is true, many for whom the seriousness of regarding what is not the Word of God as the Word of God makes little difference. I am in the opposite camp. The Greek and Latin church fathers gave us, eventually, the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. The leaders of the Reformation and later celebrity preachers were not perfect, and I dare say we should not want to emulate them in all things. The truth is the truth, on all points, great and small. We have been arguing this out mostly on the text-critical front, but I think that the linguistic front and the theological front both also lead inexorably to the same conclusion that the verses are not genuine. The fact that some have thought them to be and have survived the experience is no recommendation for ignoring what is obviously true to us now that we have the information we need to make the right judgment: viz., the verses are not legitimate. I base my view on all three legs of the stool.

Your work is clearly careful and passionate, but in my considered opinion it only proves to suggest that the interpolation may perhaps be owed an earlier date than those like myself have been previously willing to grant it. That is an interesting academic point, but in terms of Christian faith and practice will only matter if some are persuaded to accept the verses as scripture, which they are not, or to view the KJV as "right" in all such questions, which it is not.

In your latest email, you asked me whether my judgment has been affected by the abuse these verses have been used for. I can assure you that such is not the case. I am only interested in the truth, and to me it is plain. Whenever something which is not scripture is treated as scripture by the faithful, only bad things result. That may not be immediately obvious, but it is always the case in the end. And so may I ask you in turn, why precisely is it that you are so determined to prove these verses part of scripture?

In Him who is the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #27:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for writing back once again. It looks like you have not read the research-book I sent to you, because several of the points you proposed are pre-answered in the research-book. I confess that it feels exasperating to walk through what I’ve already written, when if you had simply read the research-book carefully the points would not have been re-raised. Nevertheless here are some replies to parts of your letter.

RDL: "The absence of verses 9-20 from the two best manuscripts, however explained, remains for me solid proof of the lack of genuineness of this passage."

I don’t grant that these are our "two best manuscripts" of Mark. If they are incorrect at the end of Mark 16, that’s like saying, "These are the finest two ships in the navy, aside from those big holes in the hulls." (There are other textual problems in their text as well, such as Sinaiticus’ non-inclusion of "Son of God" in Mark 1:1, and the reading at Mark 6:22, but let’s stay focused here.) In addition, the deliberately placed blank space in Vaticanus, and, in Sinaiticus, the changes in the lettering and the elaborate decorative design after Mark 16:8, convey the copyists’ awareness of the existence of an alternative way to end Mark 16 besides the abrupt ending at verse 8; in Vaticanus the text is specially formatted so as to allow its adoption and in Sinaiticus the text is specially formatted to preclude its adoption. So what are B and Aleph really telling us? If they were both made at Caesarea (and there are strong reason for thinking that this is the case), where the Shorter Ending was unknown to Eusebius, c. 325, then they are telling us that (a) their copyists followed an exemplar in which the text stopped at 16:8, and (b) their copyists were aware of exemplars in which verses 9-20 followed verse 8, and (c) when Vaticanus was produced, the copyists were unsure whether verses 9-20 should be included or not, and (d) when Sinaiticus was made, a decision had been made against the inclusion of verses 9-20. So, while B and Aleph show that exemplars at Caesarea in the early 300’s lacked verses 9-20, they also show us the copyists’ awareness of exemplars that contained verses 9-20. These two MSS show us which reading was adopted, but they do not show us which reading is older, or on what basis the verses were rejected.

RDL: "Their inclusion in the next generation of mss. is not decisive, especially when one considers that in many of the better mss. these verses are marked as spurious."

Your claim that in many of the better MSS these verses are marked as spurious is not true. This is a common mistake perpetuated by researchers who don't research. See the research-book for details.

RDL: "It was a standard practice in copying ancient texts to include everything for fear of losing anything."

No it wasn’t. Such things happened – in Codex Bezae, for example – but it was not the norm. If that had been the case, we would observe many more glosses and conflations than we observe.

RDL: "Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus only exists in two books in Greek. Whatever we may want to make of the Latin translation/expansion, it came much later and we cannot discount its expansion by another author."

Yes we can, not only because the Latin translator was far more inclined to wooden literalism than to arbitrary insertion, but also because in MS 1582 (a leading member of family-1) and 72, and one other MS (which is not yet catalogued), a Greek margin-note alongside Mark 16:19 specifies that Irenaeus quoted Mark 16:19 in Book 3 of Against Heresies. If you know much about family-1 then you know that the copyist of 1582, Ephraem (not to be confused with Ephrem Syrus), attempted to replicate his exemplars, including their marginalia, and that the exemplar he used is generally assigned to the late 400’s.

RDL: "Reconstructing the Diatessaron is even more questionable (I believe the applicable Marcan portions which survive are in Arabic)."

The doubt expressed about Irenaeus’ testimony is baseless and so is the doubt expressed about the Diatessaron. I explain this in the research-book. Look at the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis, a leading Western Diatessaronic witness, and the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic Diatessaron, a leading Eastern Diatessaronic witness, and you see basically the same thing. Plus, Ephrem Syrus, writing his commentary on the Diatessaron in Syriac in the mid-300’s, utilized Mark 16:15 twice; a large portion of his commentary is preserved in Syriac in a manuscript assigned to about 500.

RDL: "The more one argues for differences between Aleph and B, the more significant, it would seem to me, their agreement on the omission will become."

So it would seem, but the evidence shows that this is a special case. Evidence is what we should follow, not axioms, regardless of their validity as generalizations. The evidence in this case is undeniably special. Usually when two manuscripts display texts that have particular constellations of disagreement, their agreements gain significance; the reasoning being that their frequent disagreements imply that their fathers, so to speak, were independent witnesses, and thus their disagreements must echo a more ancient ancestor. But in the case of B and Aleph, where they share a scriptorium, and probably even a copyist, some consideration has to be made about not only what the copyists found in their exemplars, but also about what editorial decisions the copyists made as they produced manuscripts, and what guided those decisions. The scriptorium had some Gospels-copies bearing an Alexandrian Text – a text with the extra spear-piercing at Mt. 27:49, and with the abrupt ending of Mark. But those were not the only kinds of manuscripts at this scriptorium, as shown by the contents of Sinaiticus in John 1:1-8:38, where the text is mainly Western, and by some of the quotations made by Origen, which tend to favor the Caesarean Text (i.e., the text of f-1 and, to a lesser extent, f-13 – a very harmonized text).

If B and Aleph were produced at Caesarea, then some historical factors should be added to the equation: (1) Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea until 339, was ambivalent about whether verses 9-20 should be included or not, when he wrote Ad Marinum. (2) When Eusebius made the Eusebian Canons, he did not include verses 9-20. (3) The Eusebian Canons do not include the Alexandrian spear-piercing in Mt. 27:49. (4) Eusebius oversaw the production of 50 copies of the Scriptures (complete Bibles, it is usually thought) for the churches of Constantinople. (5) Eusebius, who was not only a historian but also an apologist, shows that one of his favorite ways to resolve textual difficulties was to posit a copyist’s error. (6) Jerome stated that Acacius and Euzoius, bishops of Caesarea in the mid-300’s, oversaw the improvement of the library there by having texts that had been written on papyrus, and were decaying, transferred onto parchment. (7) In the Caesarean Text of the Gospels, as represented by MSS 1 and 1582, Mark 16:9-20 is included but is preceded by a note stating that some manuscripts lack the verses, and that Eusebius did not include them in the Eusebian Canons, but many manuscripts include the passage.

A panoramic view of all these factors yields a picture of a changing situation at Caesarea into which the evidence from Vaticanus and Sinaiticus can be easily placed: Vaticanus represents the situation before Eusebius produced the Eusebian Canons (when there was uncertainty about whether or not verses 9-20 should be included). Sinaiticus represents the situation after Eusebius produced the Eusebian Canons (when a decision had been made to reject verses 9-20) and I’d say there is a good chance that Codex Sinaiticus was produced under the supervision of Acacius, who chose as its exemplars some of the decaying but (mostly) legible manuscripts at Caesarea, and that he decided to reject Mark 16:9-20 mainly because Eusebius, when he made the Eusebian Canons, had decided to do so. The Caesarea Text represents the situation about century later (when a decision had been made, on the basis of many manuscripts, to overrule Eusebius’ rejection of them).

I’m not sure what to do with your twelfth point; could you perhaps rephrase that so as to present the contents, instead of the number, of what you are responding to?

Regarding the motive for the cancel-leaves in Mark: as I already explained, the cancel-sheet that contains Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 was provoked by an error by the main copyist somewhere in the text of Luke 1:1-56. The thing to see is that although the corrector normally had no problem with large blank spaces between books, in this case he went to special effort to avoid leaving a blank column between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1, and also turned his decorative-design, which is usually small and simple, into an elaborate fence after Mark 16:8.

RDL: "The fact that some have thought them to be [legitimate] and have survived the experience is no recommendation for ignoring what is obviously true to us now that we have the information we need to make the right judgment."

Of course the survival of believing a false statement is not a good reason to regard it as true. But your entire statement assumes your conclusion that we are dealing with a false statement. As part of a case against Mark 16:9-20, that is circular. Let’s walk through this particular point: you were saying that Mark 16:9-20 is problematic because it has led to snake-handling and poison-drinking; I answered that such aberrant practices are not the fault of the passage but are the fault of misinterpreters, and that Christians for generations regarded the same texts as Scripture without engaging in such misguided practices. Now you say that just because people have survived believing Mark 16:18, that does not mean that we should consider it true. I agree. Nor should a text be rejected merely because it has been abused and misapplied. Right?

RDL: "Your work is clearly careful and passionate, but in my considered opinion it only proves to suggest that the interpolation may perhaps be owed an earlier date than those like myself have been previously willing to grant it."

(I would value your opinion of the book more if I were convinced that you have carefully read and understood the entire book!) Let’s focus on that question about the earliest evidence for Mark 16:9-20. This seems a particularly important question because you’ve said that the absence of verses 9-20 from two manuscripts produced in the 300’s, however that absence is explained, remains, for you, "solid proof" that the passage is not genuine. That is a very striking statement: two manuscripts from the 300’s constitute "solid proof" against Mark 16:9-20, as far as you’re concerned.

Now let’s turn to the 100’s. As I state (with details) in the research-book, if we set aside Papias’ statements that Justus survived drinking venom, and that Mark did not omit any of Peters’ recollections about Jesus, then we have four witnesses from the 100’s for the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20: Epistula Apostolorum (composed before 150, and re-issued, with some changes, before 180), Justin Martyr’s First Apology (composed before 160), Tatian’s Diatessaron (assembled around 172), and Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3, chapter 10, paragraph 5 (or 6, depending on the edition).

You raised a question about Irenaeus’s statement, which runs as follows:

"Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make the paths straight before our God." Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in "the spirit and power of Elias," "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight paths before our God." For the prophets did not announce one and another God, but one and the same – under rational aspects, however, and many titles. For varied and rich in attributes is the Father, as I have already shown in the book preceding this; and I shall show [the same truth] from the prophets themselves in the further course of this work. Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God;" confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same; He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel; whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein."

I think it’s obvious that any notion that the quotation of Mark 16:19 is not genuinely the work of Irenaeus is downright conspiratorial; we are not looking at a case of text-replacement, as if the Latin translator simply inserted quotations of his own favored text in place of Irenaeus’ quotations. Any theorist who would propose that the quotation of Mark 16:19 is not genuine must also propose that the interpretive material that follows is also not genuine. No citation is safe from such an approach. (Also, Irenaeus’ quotation of Mark 1:1 should be noticed, because when he says, "in the prophets," this shows that the Scripture-quotations in the Latin translation of Irenaeus, in this particular paragraph at least, have not been conformed to the Old Latin text of Mark 1:1, which consistently specifies Isaiah as the prophet being quoted.)

So: you’ve said that two manuscripts from the 300’s constitute "solid proof" against Mark 16:9-20, even though the verses are present in every undamaged Greek copy of Mark 16 (over 1,700) besides those two. (And this is only counting continuous-text manuscripts of Mark, not including Greek lectionaries.) And the testimony of Ambrose, from the 380’s, and the Apostolic Constitutions, from c. 380, and Augustine, from 400, do not convince you otherwise; apparently they are about 80 or 100 years too late. But when we turn to four authors from the 100’s, the youngest of which is 140 years earlier than the usually-assigned production-date of Codex Vaticanus (325, more or less), and over 160 years earlier than the production-date of Codex Sinaiticus (350, more or less), and survey their writings to see what they say, if anything, about the ending of the Gospel of Mark, these four authors answer that their copies of Mark included verses 9-20.

A question thus arises: how is it that the absence of verses 9-20 from two manuscripts produced in the 300’s is "solid proof" against Mark 16:9-20, but the presence of verses 9-20 in four manuscripts adduced to have been in the hands of Irenaeus, Tatian, Justin, and the author of Epistula Apostolorum, in the 100’s, is not solid proof in favor of Mark 16:9-20? Your readers might wonder the same thing, if you were to describe the evidence for them instead of appearing to evade it.

Those four witnesses from the 100’s are not the only ones earlier than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus that support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20. Tertullian makes a pretty strong allusion to Mark 16:18 in Scorpiace, and so does Hippolytus (in Greek; he even uses the term thanasimon). At the Seventh Council of Carthage (in 256), Vincentius of Thibaris summarized Mark 16:15-18. Two years later, the author of De Rebaptismate used 16:14. In 305, the anti-Christian author Hierocles, probably recycling the writings of his mentor Porphyry, loosely but unmistakably quoted Mark 16:17-18, in the course of making a jibe, between quotations of John 6:53 and Matthew 17:20.

Thus, besides four witnesses for Mark 16:9-20, there are five others that pre-date Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. (And this is not counting additional Diatessaronic witnesses utilizing Mark 16:9-20.) But witnesses of congruent age should also be considered, besides the eleven that are older. In the same generation in which Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were made, Marinus asked Eusebius about how Mark 16:9 should be harmonized with Matthew 28:1, thus implying that in Marinus’ manuscript of Mark, verse 9 (and, by implication, the rest of the passage) was present. Eusebius mentioned that some manuscripts of Mark contain verse 9 (and again, by implication, the rest of the passage). In the mid-300’s, Wulfilas translated the Gospels into Gothic, including verses 9-20. At about the same time, the anonymous author of Acts of Pilate use Mark 16:15-16. In 383, Jerome included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate, using, he said in the preface, ancient Greek copies as the basis for his standardization of the Latin text – Greek copies, that is, which were ancient in 383. In addition, someone inserted the Freer Logion into Greek copies some time before Jerome described them when he wrote Against the Pelagians.

Witnesses that support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 may be tallied as follows:

From the 100’s: 4 (Epistula Apostolorum, Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus).

From the 200’s: 4 (Tertullian, Hippolytus, Vincentius of Thibaris, and De Rebaptismate). (I could place the Leucian Acts in this category, too, but the text is so stratified that sifting through it would be a whole new discussion, so let's set that aside, just to keep things simple.)

From the early 300’s: 4 (Hierocles, Marinus, "some copies" mentioned by Eusebius, and the copy or copies recollected by the copyist of Vaticanus).

From the mid-300’s: 5 (the Gothic version, Acts of Pilate, Jerome’s "ancient" Greek MSS, Greek MSS with the Freer Logion mentioned by Jerome, and the copy or copies recollected by the copyist of Sinaiticus). (Metzger thought that the Freer Logion was probably added in the 100’s or 200’s; the assignment to the 300’s could be considered too late.)

In the research-book, more witnesses are listed from the late 300’s: Epiphanius, Apostolic Constitutions, and the author of De Trinitate (probably Didymus), for example. But since you said that you won’t be convinced by evidence from the late 300’s (as if we might as well not even have Codex Alexandrinus or Codex Bezae!), let’s acknowledge only the evidence that is either older than, or contemporary with, the copyists of Codex Sinaiticus. Five witnesses are roughly equal in age with Codex Sinaiticus. Four of them are roughly equal in age with Codex Vaticanus. Four of them are at least 50 years older than Codex Vaticanus. And four of them are over a century older than Codex Vaticanus.

If this evidence were not hidden from your readers, they would indeed conclude that it suggests that Mark 16:9-20 "may perhaps be owed an earlier date" than the medieval one that you have induced them to assign to it. They might also wonder why they should be expected to believe that the testimony of two manuscripts from the early-mid 300’s constitutes solid proof against Mark 16:9-20, instead of concluding that the combined testimony of nine witnesses from the early-mid 300’s, plus five witnesses from the 200’s, plus four witnesses from the 100’s, constitutes solid proof in favor of the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.

Finally, you asked, "May I ask you in turn, why precisely is it that you are so determined to prove these verses part of scripture?" I suppose you could, if I could ask why it is that you are so determined to prove that these verses are not part of Scripture. I suspect that both our answers would be similar: we want Scripture to be treated as Scripture, and non-Scripture to be treated as non-Scripture. But I would rather not ask or answer such a question, because motives should not be part of the case, as I’ve mentioned already. What should be part of the case are many details and witnesses which are absent from your current presentation of the evidence pertaining to these verses; it is almost as if you do not want your readers to know about Epistula Apostolorum, Justin, Tatian, Irenaeus, etc. I am confident that you really want your readers to be fully informed, but it would be nice if I could demonstrate that my confidence is justified.

Yours in Christ,

Response #27:

Dear Rev.,

You write: "These two MSS show us which reading was adopted, but they do not show us which reading is older, or on what basis the verses were rejected."

Putting this together with previous point #18 (unanswered), it seems we have a judgment call here. Having worked with these issues throughout the NT for many years, I stand pat with my opinion that our earliest mss., Aleph and B, are better than the much latter Byzantine mss (e.g., Aleph's text of Revelation). Since the decision to leave out verses 9-20 was deliberate, and given the propensity to include rather than throw out in the copying of ancient texts generally (pace your personal disbelief in this well known practice – perhaps you only have some set of biblical mss. in mind?), we have to conclude that there were strong reasons at the time for doing so. Leaving out so many verses at the end of a book is not likely to have been accidental, and I cannot imagine what other reason there might have been for leaving the passage out unless there was a strong conviction that the verses were not original. Seeing it any other way really is conspiratorial. If you recall, my list of allusions to other scriptures make it quite clear that even an educated scribe would not necessarily immediately see that the there were elements in the interpolations which could not be correct. Indeed, most modern readers of the KJV still do not seem to "get it" when the passage is presented to them "as scripture". In such a circumstance, it would take absolute conviction about the spurious nature of the passage to deliberately dis-include it (if that is what happened in the case of these two mss. – something I personally doubt, especially in the case of both as that defies all probability).

If I have read your research correctly, according to your theory the exemplars used also lacked the verses in question (even if we concede that the scribes "were aware" of an alternative ending). Based on the content, the style, and the fact that there was no good reason for excerpting the verses unless there was evidence for their lack of originality, my judgment on this matter remains the same: regardless of the antiquity and provenance of the intrusion, these verses have no place in the Bible.

As to some of the other points, let me include a snippet from Bruce Metzger's textual commentary on this passage:

Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, 1971), pages 122-126.

16:9-20 The Ending(s) of Mark. Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts. (1) The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (א and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (it k), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16:8. Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document. (2) Several witnesses, including four uncial Greek manuscripts of the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries (L Ψ 099 0112), as well as Old Latin k, the margin of the Harelean Syriac, several Sahidic and Bohairic manuscripts, and not a few Ethiopic manuscripts, continue after verse 8 as follows (with trifling variations): "But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation." All of these witnesses except it k also continue with verses 9-20. (3) The traditional ending of Mark, so familiar through the AV and other translations of the Textus Receptus, is present in the vast number of witnesses, including A C D K W X Δ Θ Π Ψ 099 0112 f 13 28 33 al. The earliest patristic witnesses to part or all of the long ending are Irenaeus and the Diatessaron. It is not certain whether Justin Martyr was acquainted with the passage; in his Apology (i.45) he includes five words that occur, in a different sequence, in ver. 20. (του λογου του ισχυρου ον απο ιερουσαλημ οι αποστολοι αυτου εξελθοντες πανταχου εκηρυξαν). (4) In the fourth century the traditional ending also circulated, according to testimony preserved by Jerome, in an expanded form, preserved today in one Greek manuscript. Codex Washingtonianus includes the following after ver. 14: "And they excused themselves, saying, 'This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now — thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, 'The term of years of Satan's power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.' " How should the evidence of each of these endings be evaluated? It is obvious that the expanded form of the long ending (4) has no claim to be original. Not only is the external evidence extremely limited, but the expansion contains several non-Markan words and expressions (including ο αιων ουτος, αμαρτανω, απολογεω, αληθινος, υποστρεφω) as well as several that occur nowhere else in the New Testament (δεινος, ορος, προσλεγω). The whole expansion has about it an unmistakable apocryphal flavor. It probably is the work of a second or third century scribe who wished to soften the severe condemnation of the Eleven in 16.14. The longer ending (3), though current in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. (a) The vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non-Markan. (e.g. απιστεω, βλαπτω, βεβαιοω, επακολουθεω, θεαομαι, μετα ταυτα, πορευομαι, συνεργεω, υστερον are found nowhere else in Mark; and θανασιμον and τοις μετ αυτου γενομενοις, as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament). (b) The connection between ver. 8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel. Thus, the subject of ver. 8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in ver. 9; in ver. 9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before (15.47 and 16.1); the other women of verses 1-8 are now forgotten; the use of αναστας δε and the position of πρωτον are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8. In short, all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with ver. 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion. In view of the inconcinnities between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to fill up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century. The internal evidence for the shorter ending (2) is decidedly against its being genuine. Besides containing a high percentage of non-Markan words, its rhetorical tone differs totally from the simple style of Mark's Gospel. Finally it should be observed that the external evidence for the shorter ending (2) resolves itself into additional testimony supporting the omission of verses 9-20. No one who had available as the conclusion of the Second Gospel the twelve verses 9-20, so rich in interesting material, would have deliberately replaced them with four lines of a colorless and generalized summary. Therefore, the documentary evidence supporting (2) should be added to that supporting (1). Thus, on the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16.8. At the same time, however out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee decided to include verses 9-20 as part of the text, but to enclose them within double square brackets to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.

What I most want is for my readers not to be mislead. There is no way these verses are original. I am confident of that fact. What I am still unsure of is the reason for your energetic defense given what seems to me to be so obvious, regardless of how ancient you feel the addition to be. Criminals in this country, even demonstrably guilty ones, deserve a spirited defense, and defense attorneys are not only within their rights but ethically bound to do everything they can do within the law to win their acquittal. But there is no compelling reason to do so with these verses, and there is more at stake in this case. If you really believe in your heart that these verses are scripture, then I have nothing more to say beyond stating that in my opinion they are not, no matter how vigorously defended.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Diving right in, regarding your statement, "Putting this together with previous point #18 (unanswered), it seems we have a judgment call here." – I am not sure what point #18 was. If you could present the contents of the points to which you are responding, instead of just numbering them, it would help me be able to understand what you are saying.

RDL: "Since the decision to leave out verses 9-20 was deliberate, and given the propensity to include rather than throw out in the copying of ancient texts generally (pace your personal disbelief in this well known practice - perhaps you only have biblical mss. in mind?), we have to conclude that there were strong reasons at the time for doing so."

Inasmuch as we can’t read the minds of the copyists at Caesarea in the 300’s, we do not know what their reasons were, and how strong or weak they were. (Also, I do not believe that interpolations never happened; what I am denying is that there was a widespread and persistent tendency among copyists to retain whatever appeared in their copies, and to insert marginalia into the text. Most copyists worked in scriptoriums, and had the means to investigate whatever seemed unclear or questionable in their exemplars.)

RDL: "Leaving out so many verses at the end of a book is not likely to have been accidental" –

On the contrary, if it were not for the internal evidence, accidental loss would be a very elegant explanation for the absence of the verses in Egyptian and Egyptian-derived transmission-lines.

RDL: -- "and I cannot imagine what other reason there might have been for leaving it out unless there was a strong conviction that the verses were not original."

It looks like you still have not read my book, then, because I address this.

RDL: "If I have read your research correctly, the exemplars used also lacked the verses in question (even if we concede that the scribes "were aware" of an alternative ending)."

That is correct; the exemplar given to the copyists by their supervisor did not contain Mark 16:9-20.

Regarding Metzger’s misleading and inaccurate comments, see my response (written a while ago) at

http://onyxkylix.blogspot.com/2012/06/mark-16-bruce-metzger-and.html .

RDL: "What I most want is for my readers not to be misled."

Then stop misleading them, brother! I visited http://ichthys.com/mail-Gospel-QuestionsVI.htm today and it still says – that is, you still say – that Mark 16:9-20 was added "during the middle ages." You are still deceiving your readers by deliberately blurring the evidence-descriptions via slippery phrases such as, "There [are] a number of "longer endings"" and "the variety of alternative endings." You minimize and mold the evidence when you say, "Many of the Byzantine manuscripts contain the "longer version,"" inasmuch as in the real world all of the undamaged Byzantine manuscripts contain Mark 16:9-20. You also minimize the evidence when you say, "The process of adding to Mark is an ancient one, dating back to at least the fifth century A.D." In other words, not only is your conclusion wrong, but time after time you present the evidence inaccurately, and thus mislead your readers. I think that to some extent you are a victim of the resources upon which you have relied – books such as Metzger’s Textual Commentary. But you have in your possession a pretty extensive description of the relevant evidence, and an article in which I tour the mistakes that commentators have spread about the evidence pertaining to Mark 16:9-20, so there can be no excuse to keep spreading such errors in the future. Even if you continue to believe that Mark 16:9-20 is non-canonical (thus disagreeing with Metzger, who affirmed that the passage is part of canonical Scripture), the evidence-descriptions should be corrected. Wrapping up, I have a question: suppose that tomorrow a copy of the Gospel of Mark produced in the year 200 was discovered, and it contained 16:9-20. Would you then regard these 12 verses as canonical, inspired Scripture? (Or to put it another way: if the number of second-century witnesses for the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 was raised from four to five, or, if the number of witnesses from the 100’s and 200’s for the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 was raised from eight to nine, would you then be convinced of the authenticity of the passage?)

Yours in Christ,

Response #28:

Dear Rev.,

Since we are at the point of kicking the same can around now, I would like to know the answer to what I think is really the key question here. To paraphrase L.S. Chafer, scripture is obvious from its content just as what is not scripture is obvious from its content.

Irrespective of all textual issues, do you really believe that Mark 16:9-20 is scripture?

I most emphatically do not.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Dear Robert,

To quote L. S. Chafer on pages 174-175 of his book Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, where he refers to miraculous signs: "Oftentimes they are thus seals of power set to the person who accomplishes them ("The Lord confirming the word by signs following," Mark 16:20, Acts 14:3, Heb. 2:4)." And, to quote L. S. Chafer, on page 252 of the same book, Christ's ascension "is directly presented but three times (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:49-52; Acts 1:9)." And, to quote L. S. Chafer, on page 151 of Vol. 2, "in the sixth and seventh passage - I Peter 3:21 ; Mark 16:16 - this baptism is related to salvation as a most vital feature of it." (And Chafer was not ignorant that Mark 16:9-20 was not in the oldest copies of Mark; he mentions that on page 28 of his book Grace: An Exposition of God's Marvelous Gift. But he treats it as Scripture throughout his writings (citing Mark 16:16 as God's Word on page 45), as far as I can tell.) Unless you've found some evidence to the contrary, I think we can say that Lewis S. Chafer, this person to whom Scripture was obvious from its content, and to whom non-Scripture was obvious from its content, regarded Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture.

You asked, "Irrespective of all textual issues, do you really believe that Mark 16:9-20 is scripture?"

As I stated clearly in the materials I've sent to you, I most emphatically believe that Mark 16:9-20 is Scripture.

Yours in Christ,

Response #29:

Dear Rev.,

Then it seems we are at the end of our correspondence. Chafer is heaven and knows better now. Anyone who attempts to cover the whole realm of doctrine as he did will make some mistakes. In his defense, there is no indication that he made anything like the extensive study you have of this issue, nor ever attempted any sort of similar crusade to rehabilitate the passage. That is really what I am concerned about. You certainly have covered this from all angles, and you know the weaknesses of your position as well as the strengths. You, more than most (perhaps more than anyone else) are certainly in a position to make the argument the other way. The problem (for you) is that this passage is certainly not inspired, was certainly not written by Mark or anyone else under divine inspiration, and teaches things which, when carefully considered, are clearly contrary to the truth we know from elsewhere in scripture. Were the passage biblical, we would have to deal with those inconsistencies; as it is, we are blessed to have plenty of evidence to see that it is not (your prodigious efforts notwithstanding – and, indeed, the fact that we have sufficient evidence to be confident in spite of this "furious defense" is really a blessing).

I do ask you as a brother in Christ, do you really want to have answer for any who may be persuaded that this passage is scripture as a result of your efforts?

Are we saved by water baptism?

Are we protected from poisoning as Christians?

Do we need have no prudent fear of poisonous serpents?

Can you drive out demons with a word?

Do you speak in tongues?

Did Christ ascend to heaven twice?

There are plenty of other doctrinal problems and chronological inconsistencies in this passage, and plenty of tells in the language which give away its falsity as well – in addition to the decisive textual evidence. I am sorry that the KJV prints it. I know that in the cases of most of this passage's defenders that is the real motive behind wanting to keep it (whatever your motives are). Nothing you have shared with me comes close to convincing me that this passage is scripture. You have mounted a wonder philological defense worthy of publication in an appropriate journal. That, however, is not the standard to which we who believe in Jesus Christ have been called. We have been called to the truth.

In hope and prayer for the illumination of your heart on this important point.

Bob L.

[Reader Observation]:

Hi Bob,

The long ending teaches that Jesus ascended on the same day He rose. That's good enough for me to reject it.

Response:

That's an excellent point.  I was hinting at that in my question about the "two ascensions" (which is, by the way, a strange theory held even by some mainline exegetes; see the link).  The way you put it is exactly the right way to put it:  the author of this interpolation does seem to think that all of these things happened in a single day with the ascension following at the end of the day (and that, of course, will not hold water; see the link: in BB 4A "The Chronology of the Resurrection").

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.


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